Wenger has high hopes for future of youngsters

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger has tipped "seven or eight" of his young Arsenal players to become first-team regulars after their excellent 3-0 victory against Wigan Athletic in the Carling Cup fourth round in midweek.

The average age of the side on Tuesday was just 19, but they gave their far more experienced opponents a footballing lesson. The impressive performances of the midfielder Jack Wilshere, 16, strikers Jay Simpson, 19, who scored twice, and Carlos Vela, 19, coupled with last weekend's 2-1 win over the Premier League champions Manchester United, have lifted spirits at Arsenal, whose season looked to be disintegrating just a week before after the 2-1 defeat away to Stoke City.

Wenger is unlikely to retain any of his youngsters for today's Premier League match at home to Aston Villa, but is confident that a number of players have promising futures at the club. "If you ask me how many will play in the Premier League, I would say about seven or eight," Wenger said. "If you look at the team which played in the Carling Cup two years ago we had four midfielders who played against Manchester United two years later.

"We have a good idea about the potential of players. We also have [Lukasz] Fabianksi, [Alexandre] Song, [Johan] Djourou who are ready to play. [Gavin] Hoyte and [Kieran] Gibbs both have a future, so too Wilshere, and Simpson is a typical goalscorer. They are not ready to play week in, week out. When you look at the level of competition the demand is too high. I have to protect their potential. They are developing and they will be ready if they continue the good work and if they have good attitude."

Wenger is wary of fifth-placed Villa, who he believes are one of several sides capable of breaking into the top four. Martin O'Neill's team go into the game on the back of two consecutive defeats in the league, while the Gunners are on a high after getting their season back on track. "They [Villa] are physically strong and technically efficient," Wenger said. "They have a lot of pace and can play in the air and on the ground."

Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to start for Arsenal after recovering from an ankle injury sooner than expected.