Wenger: Gunners don't have to sell
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts any ageing team will "die" unless it is regenerated with younger talent - but has warned Manchester City the days of cherry-picking their top graduates is over.
Reports have linked City with a summer move for England midfielder Jack Wilshere as the north-west club look to inject fresh life into a squad which has failed to keep up with Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea, slipping to fourth place following Monday night's defeat at Crystal Palace.
City captain Vincent Kompany turns 29 on Friday, while players such as Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, James Milner, Edin Dzeko and David Silva are all also now senior statesmen within the group.
Wenger accepts every squad goes through a natural regeneration process.
"When all your main players get close to 30, you can't buy a 30-year-old player, you have to buy a player who is 22 or 23, because if you buy another player of 30, they all die together," said the Arsenal manager.
"You have to analyse individually as well as it depends on the physical potential of a player, not only of the age.
"If a player is 30 per cent over what the others are, then if he drops at 32, he can (still) play at 35, because even when he drops, he is at the level requested.
"It is like (Usain) Bolt, who can still win a 100-metre race at 33. If he was at (his) limit at 28, then at 32 he will not win anymore, but he is so much above that he can still win the race."
Wenger was unable to prevent the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Sami Nasri and Bacary Sagna all swapping the Emirates Stadium for bumper pay deals at Eastlands in recent seasons.
However, Wenger is not about to let 23-year-old Wilshere - who has been at Arsenal since the age of nine - or indeed anyone else of his current talented young squad depart the club, which is now emerging from the financial restrictions of their ground move from Highbury to Ashburton Grove.
The Gunners boss insists Arsenal are "not in a position any more where we have to sell our best players."
Wenger continued: "When we had the period of restricted finances, we had to sell the players when they started to perform - from 18 to 23.
"A player becomes a player at 23 or 24, but if you have to sell them at 23 or 24, then you just feel you work for the other clubs."
Wenger believes giving the opportunity to the likes of Wilshere and now 20-year Spaniard Hector Bellerin can only stand Arsenal in good stead for the challenges ahead.
"For years you could say to me: 'you have no choice, you have to play them', but now we want to maintain that," said Wenger, who has in the past two seasons spent big on recruiting proven talent Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
"It is part of the DNA of the club to give a chance to young players."
Wenger added: "You can see that all of the clubs who are performing on a longer period, that it is the core (of the squad) which have grown up together.
"It means something to them inside the club, that they belong to that."
Wilshere has recovered from minor ankle surgery and could be in line to make a first appearance since the end of November at Burnley on Saturday, when Arsenal will go in search of an eighth successive Premier League victory.
However, midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has already been ruled out of contention for next weekend's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Reading as he battles an inflamed groin.
"I hope it does not become a long-term problem, but he faces a hurdle this week in training," said Wenger.
"We will see if he has recovered well, so this end of the week and the start of next week are important, to see if he got rid of that inflammation."