Chamberlain must now step up, says Wenger


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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has called on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Park Ju-young to make new year's resolutions to step up from fringe players to contenders for the first XI.

Wenger is concerned that his attacking strength is heavily reliant on Robin van Persie, and the players at his disposal will be further diminished when Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh head off for potential seven-week stints at the African Cup of Nations.

With this in mind, Wenger is hopeful that Oxlade-Chamberlain and Park, who both joined in the summer but have yet to start a game for the Gunners in the Premier League, can make the step up. "Alex is not far," Wenger said of the 18-year-old bought from Southampton for £12m in the summer. "In 2012, at the beginning of the year, he will play games. He is a talented boy, it's all there – he just needs that toughness in the game and because every game for us is so tight.

"I could have brought him on the other night [against Aston Villa] and you [consider] it. But you do not want him to be a little bit overruled by the intensity of the game.

"He is ready to play. He is just missing that experience at the top level. You have to throw him a few games."

Oxlade-Chamberlain's first experience of the Premier League was when he came off the bench in the 8-2 defeat by Manchester United at the end of August. It was an unhelpful experience he may want to forget – Arsenal were 4-1 down when he came on and Wenger added: "On the day, it was [doing no one a] favour to come on. The team was completely lost and it was not the best of favours I've done."

On Park, Wenger said that his own actions had as much to do with why the South Korea international had not yet made an impact as the player's. "It has been difficult because I have not given him the chance to play and the intensity of the challenges – some players take a short [time], others take a long [time]. But it takes you time."

Wenger has the utmost respect for the job Mick McCarthy is doing at today's opponents, Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the face of criticism from some of the club's fans. "Mick McCarthy is doing miracles at Wolves," Wenger said. "He is always ready for a fight, never gives up, keeps his steadiness and mental strength, never shows any strain.

"It is great what he does for his club. I believe that they play extremely good football as well."

Odds Home 2-9; Draw 5-1, Away 14-1.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights Sky Sports 1, 10pm)

Team news Johan Djourou (groin) is pushing for a return from injury for the hosts, although Francis Coquelin is more likely to start at right-back. Alex Song returns from suspension. For Wolves, David Edwards (groin) and Jody Craddock (hamstring) are nearing comebacks, but Kevin Foley (ankle) remains unavailable.