Arsenal, West Ham superkids put friendship aside

LONDON, Jan 2, 2010 (AFP) -

Jack Collison
Jack Collison faces fellow Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey on Sunday in an intriguing subplot to West Ham's FA Cup showdown against Arsenal.

Both youngsters boast huge potential, but their club paths have headed in dramatically different directions this season with West Ham battling relegation while Arsenal are pushing for the Premier League title.
And Collison admits he is one of Ramsey's biggest fans.

"Aaron is a real class act. I got a chance to play with him for the Wales Under-21s when we had a real good run in the European Championship qualifiers, so I am not surprised at all how well he has done. He is so good on the ball and works so hard," said Collison.

"I am sure that, at a club like Arsenal and under a manager like Arsene Wenger, he is going to really keep improving and over the next few years you will see great things from him.

"It is hard to get your opportunity but you have to keep working hard and take the chance when it comes.
"I have done my best to do that and am enjoying my football, just trying to improve for West Ham as best as I can."

Meanwhile, Wenger admitted he is ready to sacrifice Arsenal's FA Cup hopes to keep their Premier League title challenge on track.

Wenger has won the Cup four times during his 13 years in north London and the club's last major silverware came in the competition back in 2005.

Yet the French coach has no intention of letting fond memories of the tournament distract him from keeping his players fresh for Wednesday's crucial home league game against Bolton.

Arsenal are firmly back in the title race after their 4-1 win at Portsmouth in midweek and a victory over the managerless Trotters would close the gap on leaders Chelsea to just one point.

With that in mind, Wenger is prioritising the league and plans to send out an under-strength side at Upton Park - even if this means his team being eliminated at the first hurdle.

Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Denilson are all sidelined through injury, but Wenger will also rest several other players as the likes of Mikael Silvestre and Lukasz Fabianski get rare outings.

"I will have to rest some players, that is for sure," Wenger said. "We want to win, but we want to protect our home games against Bolton and Everton as well, to keep the momentum going.

"The Premier League is always more important than the FA Cup. The Premier League is so hard that you want to take care of your position.

"At the moment we have to keep our spirit and our attitude, then we have a chance.

"A season is judged on the overall achievement and people look to who has won the trophies but I also look at how we have done and how consistently we have played."
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