Wenger excited by Ramsey
Arsene Wenger believes Aaron Ramsey can rise to the challenge and stake his claim for a regular first-team place by leading Arsenal to victory over Liverpool in tomorrow's League Cup tie at the Emirates Stadium. With the Gunners manager set to again mix things up in terms of team selection, the Wales international is in line for what would be his second start, but an 11th appearance of an important season.
Ramsey will turn 19 on Boxing Day, and Wenger believes the former Cardiff City trainee has come a long way since his £5m move during the summer of 2008, scoring in the 4-1 Premier League win over Portsmouth as well as playing in Europe.
"If you consider he is only 18, Ramsey has developed exceptionally well," said Wenger. "He has made a big improvement compared to last year, when he still looked a little bit like a youth player, but now he looks like a (first-team) player.
"He is really pushing hard and the other midfielders have a lot of work to keep him out of the side, because he is getting very close. The target I set him at the start of the season was to get between 15 and 20 games this year, and I think he will get that."
Playmaker Samir Nasri was named on the bench for Sunday's 2-2 draw at West Ham United, in a welcome return following a broken leg suffered on the pre-season trip to Austria. Wenger hinted the French international was likely to feature against Liverpool, with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski another looking to sharpen up his fitness after coming back from knee surgery with the reserves last week.
Philippe Senderos and veteran Mikael Silvestre should provide some experience in defence. "I will put out a team that has a good chance to win the game," explained Wenger. "It will be a mixed team, but we want to win every game, no matter who plays.
"Liverpool always have a big squad and therefore you face strong opposition. I believe they will have to rotate as well as they played Manchester United on Sunday, play again in the league again on Saturday and then go to Lyon."
Young forward Sanchez Watt will be hoping to get another chance to impress, having scored the opening goal in the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the last round. The 18-year-old was part of Arsenal's FA Youth Cup-winning side last season, and has enjoyed his step up to the first-team squad, being on the bench for the UEFA Champions League opener at Standard Liege.
"I am learning so much all the time," he said. "Arsene Wenger has taught me a lot when I have trained with the first team, and obviously I get to learn from people like Robin van Persie as well.
"I am playing as a front man, so I am watching everything he does on the ball, off it, his movement, everything. I ask him a lot of questions and he helps me out giving me plenty of advice, and I take it all in. Robin is a big team player, he doesn't just work for himself - all the players love him."
Although raised in Hackney, Watt was a Liverpool fan as a boy, following his father's favourite team, before being scouted by the Gunners while playing at the Senrab club in east London, which boasts the likes of England duo John Terry and Jermain Defoe among its former players. Now, though, the teenager is fully focused on making a successful career at the Emirates.
"I am just looking to train hard here and take my chances when they come, doing as well as I can and helping the team win games," Watt told the November edition of the official Arsenal Magazine. "After my recent experiences, I definitely want it even more now."