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Wenger impressed by Wilshere's promise

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been impressed with the development of 17-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere in pre-season.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, left, tussles with Atletico Madrid's Clever Santana on Saturday.
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, left, tussles with Atletico Madrid's Clever Santana on Saturday.

LONDON // Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been impressed with the development of 17-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere in pre-season, saying he is becoming more powerful in bursting past and destabilising defenders. Wenger's biggest challenge in managing the precocious English teenager, who was named man of the match on Saturday in Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in the Emirates Cup, will be getting him to accept not being a first-choice player.

"At that age unfortunately, patience is not your first quality," Wenger said. "But he's at a big club and he has a chance to compete already. We give him the chance to compete at the top level and we have to manage that well - the desire to play, the opportunity to play and patience. The potential is there." Wilshere broke into the first team last season, becoming the youngest player, at 16 years 256 days, to play for Arsenal in the Premier League. Wenger has acknowledged similarities to the career path of Cesc Fabregas, who still holds the honour of being the overall youngest player to appear in an Arsenal shirt. But Wilshere's style differs from that of Fabregas.

"Wilshere is more a player who goes at people and runs at people," Wenger said. "Cesc is more a passer of the ball. Wilshere is a guy who provokes and passes people, destabilises people and that game demands power. We have noticed in our pre-season and training that he has gained power." Wilshere, who will be 18 on January 1, demonstrated that power on Saturday, making strong runs down the right flank and creating several chances.

"He has matured and you see compared to one year ago he has more power to take people on," Wenger said. "He's now gained a fraction of power that makes him much more dangerous. Once people start to pass people in the final 20 yards you can always say there's something special there." Wenger's youth policy has been criticised by Manchester City defender Kolo Toure, who said he left Arsenal because of the failure to replace their best players.

"When you look at Arsenal you see all the great players have left and are now in the past," Toure, 28, said. "Players like [Thierry] Henry, [Patrick] Vieira and [Ray] Parlour and I believed it was right at this stage of my career to also move on." Though, Wenger confirmed the club are considering a return for Vieira, who is set to leave Italian side Inter Milan, he has largely relied on promising youngsters to replace his departed players. But Toure claimed: "You can't be successful in football without money. This is the football business.

"The best teams are at the top only because they have the best players and to get those players you have to spend a lot of money." * AP