Arsene Wenger believes Aaron Ramsey is only just beginning to recover fully from the effects of his horrific broken leg 18 months ago.
Ramsey was left with a fractured fibula and tibia after a challenge in February 2010 by Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross of which Wenger was highly critical. The 20-year-old Arsenal midfielder, however, scored the winning goal at the end of the midweek Champions League match in Marseille.
Ramsey faces Stoke and Shawcross again at the Emirates stadium on Sunday with Wenger insisting he is showing signs of getting back to his best. Wenger said: "He is gaining his touch again because he lost that a little bit for a while. Now the speed of the movement of his feet is there again, but let me tell you it takes a long time."
Wenger is reluctant to place added responsibility on the shoulders of Ramsey, whose return to form is much-needed given the summer departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and the long-term injury suffered by Jack Wilshere.
But Wenger believes the Welshman could give his midfield the steel it requires.
"Aaron is a different player (to Fabregas)," Wenger said. "He is more a guy who makes good runs into the box and is a good finisher but he has good vision when he has the ball at his feet. Aaron has strong physical qualities. If he develops his game well he can finish with double figures (of goals)in the Premier League."
Those physical qualities will be required against a Stoke team who have earned a reputation for their no-nonsense approach under manager Tony Pulis.
Wenger is renowned for his eye-pleasing football but he claims he also welcomes football's physical challenge and surprisingly revealed he believes the game needs more robust challenges.
Wenger said: "Sometimes you feel that the tackling is punished too much. Tackling is a technique and if it is done well with the desire not to hurt but to win the ball it is a fantastic technique.
"Personally I like players who are brave, but with the right spirit. I think the bravest players I have met are those who were physical but did not hurt people. Usually the players who play to hurt are cowards."