Belfast Telegraph

Wenger backs youngster for Euros

Arsene Wenger believes 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be ready to go to the European Championships with England next summer.

Arsenal's £12m summer signing from Southampton continued his rich vein of scoring form with a hat-trick for England Under-21s against Iceland in Reykjavik last week which underlined his emergence as one of England's top prospects. He has also wasted no time justifying Arsene Wenger's faith in him by scoring in his last two club appearances.

Now Wenger, who advised former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to take Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006 as a 17-year-old, believes Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a surprise package for England when they head to Poland and Ukraine. Wenger said: "I don't rule him out. It depends on his progress here."

He added: "You cannot rule him out because he has the basic talent. In the next five, six months we will see how he adjusts to the physical intensity of the game."

Wenger admits Oxlade-Chamberlain has surprised him with the speed with which he has settled in at the Emirates stadium

Asked if he had exceeded his expectations, Wenger said: "Yes, I did not expect him to be so comfortable as quickly as that so he has done extremely well. He still needs some more time to adapt to the intensity of some of the games. He has the quality already for top-level Premier League games."

Wenger refuses to compare him with Walcott, who did not feature in any of England's games in Germany in 2006 and then was left out of the squad four years later at the World Cup in South Africa.

Wenger said: "Theo Walcott went at 17 years of age to the World Cup and Chamberlain is already 18 now. They are at different stages.

"I believe that Chamberlain is more in the build-up of a game and Walcott is more striker-minded. They are different types of players, both gifted.

"Slowly England gets players out of the youth system that have the quality to play on the international level, at a very interesting level."

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