Arsene Wenger has warned about the dangers of burn-out should Jack Wilshere play in this summer's European Under-21 Championship. Arsenal's 19-year-old midfielder wants to represent England in June, but his manager predicted that, after a busy season, he "will hit the wall at some stage", and that having played for the senior side, he does not need to return to the Under-21s.
Wilshere this week expressed his enthusiasm for the U21 championship, despite his recent appearances for the seniors. Wenger had voiced his concerns over the midfielder's involvement but admitted yesterday that the rules give the Football Association "the final word". While he described Wilshere's willingness to play as "more positive than negative", the Arsenal manager said he had grown used to seeing the problems caused by over-work.
"I think they have to look as well how much players will play," Wenger said of the FA. "I do not want to go into these battles any more. But I have enough experience, experience helps you only to anticipate problems. It doesn't make you more intelligent. You know this car will hit the wall at some stage and you see it a little bit earlier than somebody who has less experience and I think in the world, nobody has brought more young players out than I have and I have a good experience of what kind of stages they go through."
Wilshere has already played 44 games for club and country this season. He started both England's recent games and Wenger said that "a lot happened last week that defied common sense". He pointed to examples of summer underachievement caused by burn-out. "I've met players at World Cups," he said, "who have played more than 60 games in a season and before the World Cup started they said to me: 'Boss, I am dead'."
Wenger said that to pick Wilshere would break with the very point of the U21 team. He argued that it exists as a platform to the senior side, rather than as a means of winning tournaments. "Logically, why do you produce a youth system?" he asked. "It is to get them ready to be playing in the first team. Once they play in the first team, your job has been done so you can promote other players. Unless you say we want to go for national pride and ego, so we just play our best players in this tournament, then it is defendable. But that is not basically why the youth teams have been created.
"If I ask you give me the winners of the World Cup since it has been created, I am sure you will give me them all. If I ask you to give me the winners of the Under-21 tournaments, you will struggle. That means the basic target is to get the players ready to play in the first team – once they play there it is less useful."
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