Arsène Wenger believes Jack Wilshere is getting better and better and will not rest him yet as Arsenal head into a crucial part of their season.
Arsenal host Swansea City in the FA Cup third-round replay tomorrow night. If they win it will be the first of a sequence of six games in 17 days. Wilshere has been playing consistently since returning from injury in October, and Wenger said he was improving.
"One month ago you could see he would have to fight with his body to get past people," the manager said. "Against Manchester City he looked comfortable to do that."
There are understandable concerns about Wilshere's workload and Wenger promised to rest the 21-year-old midfielder, but not quite yet. "Maybe not in this period, at some stage I will do it," Wenger said.
"At the moment I don't think he is overloaded because he just came back very recently, and you get the feeling he gets stronger. I don't think at the moment I will rest him immediately, but it will happen."
Wenger appreciates how much depends on Wilshere for both club and country, and admitted that it was a burden on the youngster.
"The expectation level is so high individually on players that they are not in a normal development, sometimes there is so much focus on them that I feel it is a handicap," said Wenger.
While Wilshere's responsibility will only increase with Mikel Arteta injured, Wenger revealed the Spaniard may return in less than three weeks from his calf strain.
Victory tomorrow night is crucial to Arsenal's hopes of a trophy this season, with a fourth-round tie at Brighton awaiting the winner on 26 January. Wenger wants his players to be more relaxed than they often are at home. "We have to deal with that pressure a little bit better and not transform that desire into tension," he said.