Wenger backs Wilshere to outshine Bale
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed Jack Wilshere to steal the limelight away from Gareth Bale in Sunday's north London derby, insisting the Welshman is little more than "the flavour of the moment".
Wenger's side will close the gap on their local rivals to just one point if they win at White Hart Lane, yet the Arsenal boss admits his side's hopes of a place in next season's Champions League will suffer a fatal blow if they crash to defeat against Spurs.
While Bale appears to be the biggest threat to Arsenal's ambitions in a game that will define the Premier League campaigns for both clubs, Wenger believes his team will have no fear lining up against the brilliant Bale.
"Everyone talks about Bale because he is the flavour of the moment, but when you look at Wilshere, you will see here a guy who will be very special," Wenger said.
"No one would doubt that Jack will eventually get 100 caps for England, he will achieve so much in the game and I am amazed by the way he has come back from being out for 17 months to reach the peak of his potential so quickly.
"Honestly, I did not believe he could be at this level so quickly after spending so many months away from the game. It is amazing."
Wenger believes 21-year-old Wilshere can emulate former Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas and develop a scoring touch that will give him the complete package as the leader of a new generation at the Emirates.
"I remember Cesc saying to me that he could not understand why he could not score goals and it was something that worried him," Wenger said. "I told him the goals would come as he developed. Now he is a regular goal scorer at the top, top level of the game.
"At the moment, Jack likes to drop deep in the midfield and he feels comfortable in that role, but he has a little dribble that allows him to get through to the final third and this is why I believe he can develop in the way Fabregas eventually did.
"Jack will eventually start to score 10-15 goals a season and that will only be part of what he brings to Arsenal in the next few years. You know, this guy can achieve everything in the game.
"Being a leader comes naturally to him and you can see what he does for the players around him. Santi Cazorla is free to play because of what Jack does for the whole team and the attitude of this boy is also first class.
"He breathes football. He doesn't talk too much and his feet are firmly on the ground. You tend to forget how old he is when you see him play. This boy is 21-years-old and he is already at a level of an established player in the Premier League and international level. It is amazing really."
Wenger went on to warn his players that defeat in Sunday's clash with Spurs may well end their hopes of a top four finish this season, ramping up the pressure on his players to perform in the heat of a derby battle.
"We cannot drop points, it's simple," he said. "Since we lost the Chelsea game (in January), we realised that one more defeat could allow us to fall quickly behind. So losing against Tottenham is not an option for us. Losing any game is not an option in these final 11 games.
"I don't need to remind my players how important this game is for us. They are all international footballers who want to be playing in the Champions League next season, so I have no doubt that they will be ready for this challenge."