Wenger looks to youth
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not setting English starlet Jack Wilshere any targets other than to improve this season.
The 17-year-old will be part a youthful Gunners side against West Bromwich Albion in the third round of the Carling Cup at Emirates Stadium tonight. The Hertfordshire-born 17-year-old impressed during pre-season and made his England Under-21 debut in the Netherlands last month.
So far, though, Wenger has used the combative young midfielder sparingly, with just two substitute appearances in the UEFA Champions League. Wilshere holds the club appearance record for the youngest player in both the league and Europe after being fast-tracked into the first-team squad last season - but Wenger continues to err on the side of caution.
"I believe last year he paid a little bit of a price physically for a very demanding start," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. "This year we feel that he is strong, more mature, and I am sure that he will show that against West Brom.
"There are not too many [targets] because you cannot predict that too much. I believe you do not know what will happen throughout the season, so for him the most objective target is to improve. There are some areas where he can improve and that is most important that you work on everything."
Another youngster hoping to impress is Sanchez Watt. The 18-year-old forward was on the bench for the UEFA Champions League Group H opener at Standard Liege. "I like his movement, his sharpness, his great work rate, his left-footed quality," said Wenger. "I believe he is determined."
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey has already staked his claim for a regular place in the first-team squad, making six appearances from the bench already this season and scoring in the 4-1 Premier League win over Portsmouth as well as playing in Europe. Wenger has been impressed with Ramsey's progress since his £5 million move from Cardiff during the summer of 2008.
"I believe he has improved a lot," the Arsenal manager said. "A midfielder is someone who makes others play, and when you are very young you are more concerned about how you play, and he has made a big evolution in that stage.
"Don't forget that Aaron Ramsey has outstanding physical qualities - he is quick, he has fantastic stamina, he has become much more powerful with his body. I believe he is not far now from the other players and he is pushing everybody."
The Baggies may have been relegated last season, but Roberto di Matteo's team currently lead the Championship - and thrashed fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough 5-0 at the weekend. "That tells you that you face a very good side who is basically a Premier League side," Wenger said. "That is why the challenge will be very high for us, but we are up for it and we believe we can do it."