London: Known to rely a lot on youth, Arsene Wenger, the manager of English Premier League club Arsenal, has admitted that having too many young players in a side could be a deterrent to their title hopes.
The Frenchman was frank about the ideal age of a team looking to be crowned champions, telling the club's website that the key players in the squad should be between 23-30 years of age.
"To be a real football player, you need to be 23 years old because before you have learned your job, you can have a great game and after, sometimes an average game," Wenger told www.arsenal.com.
"If you look at the national teams, you never win a tournament with a young team, because it's more mental at some stage to win something big. You need to have a certain level of experience." he added.
Speaking of his own side, the French coach handpicked young first-teamers Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi as the kind of "exceptional talents" who could bypass the age bracket and still be an integral part of the side. "You can have one or two exceptional talents, like at the moment we have Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi, but the core of the team has to be from 23 to 30," Wenger stated.
The 66-year-old manager highlighted Bellerin's "mental strength" as the reason for the progress he has made in the past few years, calling it "absolutely spectacular". From spending almost an entire season on the bench, on loan at Watford, to having a nightmare on his Arsenal debut, the young Spanish fullback has been "remarkable" in fulfilling his responsibilities in the dressing room, Wenger felt.
With speculations rife over the 21-year-old's future, the Arsenal manager called Bellerin a "real Arsenal player" and expressed the desire to keep him at the club for the long haul. "He has nearly three years to go and we always try get the players to the level where we think they deserve to be, so we try to extend, certainly, his contract. For me, his long-term future is here," Wenger told the Arsenal website.
The Frenchman completed 20 years with the club on 16 September 2016 and has celebrated the landmark with wins over London rivals Chelsea and a last-gasp victory away to Burnley – the type of wins that have evaded Wenger in recent times.
After a loss on the opening day to Liverpool, Arsenal have recovered well to sit third on the Premier League table after seven matches, just two points off pace-setter Manchester City. With clean sheets in each of the last four matches, the Gunners are beginning to show the kind of resolve they have so desperately lacked in the previous years.
With inputs from IANS.