The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is convinced the club's rising star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will make England's Euro 2012 squad if he continues his current impressive form.
Despite being just 18 years old, Oxlade-Chamberlain has made a big impression since he joined the north London club last summer from Southampton. Wenger had intended to integrate Oxlade-Chamberlain slowly into the Gunners' side but the pacy winger has already made 16 appearances this season, scoring four goals.
The Frenchman is cautious about giving Oxlade-Chamberlain too much game time as he feels it may hamper the youngster's physical development, but he also admits he is finding it hard to resist fielding the player after his recent displays.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was omitted from Stuart Pearce's England squad for last night's friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley, but Wenger believes the youngster is destined to make the cut for this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine. "Physically, we have to monitor him because after every game he can have a little problem," Wenger said on Arsenal's website. "We know now that a large percentage of players who play a lot of games between the ages of 18 and 21 have bony stress responses. I never expected the number to be so high.
"[It happens] because your skeleton is not completely finished and the bones are not completely developed to absorb the kinds of shocks you get in the Premier League.
"We have to be cautious about that. But you are always in a trap when the player is as good as he is, like Jack Wilshere is too. You cannot take him out of the team, you have to keep him there. They can win you games.
"Until the end of the season there is no problem and if he continues to play like this I am convinced he will go to Euro 2012."
One of the most pleasing aspects of Oxlade-Chamberlain's character, according to Wenger, is his ability to play well in the club's biggest games despite his tender age. The England Under-21 international has played against both Manchester sides, Milan and Tottenham this season, and Wenger has been impressed with the performances of his hulking young winger.
"He is a little bit like a boxer in his upper body," Wenger added. "He has not played too many games up until now because he was on a learning curve but he has a super quality and is not fazed by the [biggest] occasions. To put him in the team against any opposition... it is just natural for him to be there.
"For a young player, sometimes they waste a lot of time getting used to the pressure. He looks like he can take it. There are very few players like that, players who look like they have always played in the team." Oxlade-Chamberlain last night earned his eighth England Under-21 cap in a European Championship qualifier against Belgium at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.
Wenger has been linked with a move for striker Lukas Podolski, whose future at Bundesliga club Cologne is uncertain. The striker, who is his side's top scorer, could be on the move after his coach, Stale Solbakken, refused to say whether the Germany international would see out his contract until 2013.
Podolski has scored 15 goals this season as his home club, to which he returned in 2009 after a hapless three-year spell at Bayern Munich, battle to avoid the drop.
"Lukas is a Cologne player at the moment and will be one until the end of the season," Solbakken said during the team's training session. "Then we will have to see what happens. His decision is important for us but also for him. We have to respect that."
Cologne have so far failed in their efforts to extend Podolski's contract. He has said that he will take a decision in the off-season.Reuse content