Arsène Wenger wants to resolve Jack Wilshere’s contract situation before the January transfer window, with the inference being Arsenal may look to sell the midfielder if they do not offer fresh terms or he turns them down.
Wilshere’s deal expires at the end of the season and Wenger said it had always been the plan to put negotiations on hold until December in order for the player to concentrate on recovering form and fitness after his well-documented injury problems.
Wenger has picked Wilshere six times this season, almost entirely in the cup competitions, and he feels the player has found an encouraging groove. For the past three weeks the manager has been able to treat him like any other member of the squad in terms of training and conditioning work.
On Wednesday he urged Gareth Southgate to give Wilshere a recall for the Wembley friendlies against Germany and Brazil but the England manager does not intend to pick the 25-year-old.
Wilshere’s prospects of a new contract at Arsenal stand to be influenced by the likelihood Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez will be gone by next summer when their deals run out. Wenger sees Wilshere as being in competition with them for one of the attacking slots behind the striker in his 3-4-2-1 formation, rather than for one of the deeper-lying central midfield positions.
Yet the bottom line is Wilshere must continue his recent improvement, and he will have another chance to prove his worth in the Europa League tie at home to Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night. Wenger indicated he will start him alongside Theo Walcott and behind Olivier Giroud.
“I said many times that [Wilshere’s contract] would be decided in December,” Wenger said. “I wanted to give him six months not to think about that and see where we go. Do we want to clear it up before the January window? Yes.
“For me, Jack is in the position between wide and completely central, or in that area behind the midfield, because he turns the game forward well, he can chip a little ball and he can pass people on the short space. That’s why I think the [3-4-2-1] system suits him well. He’s a little bit in conflict for a position with Özil and Sánchez. I consider him as part of the front three.”
Southgate attended Arsenal’s home win over Swansea City last Saturday and Wenger said he had asked him about Wilshere. “I said: ‘No restrictions.’ Jack’s in a very good way,” Wenger said. “He is ready. He was not three weeks ago but he is today. In every single competition, he’s ready to play. I would encourage him [Southgate] to do it.
“I can only repeat what I personally think: I don’t know how you can keep a super-fit Jack out of the England squad. I manage him, at the moment, like every single player. Since three weeks he is treated like any other player.”
There was a time when Wenger would have been nervous about Wilshere’s involvement with England for fitness and red zone-related reasons but, these days, he simply wants him to play. There was also an irony in Wenger saying Wilshere is ready for England when he cannot get a game in the Premier League. Wilshere has played for only 13 minutes in the competition this season.
“Jack was ready to be in the dark at the start of the season and just work hard,” Wenger said. “He was determined and now he feels he has found that little bit of sharpness which is decided in the first two yards. Since he has been playing for us everybody has started to think in a different way about him.”
Arsenal (3-4-2-1, probable): Cech — M Debuchy, Elneny, Holding; Nelson, Coquelin, Willock, Maitland-Niles; Walcott, Wilshere; Giroud.
Red Star Belgrade (4-2-3-1, probable): Borjan; Stojkovic, Le Tallec, Savic, Babic; Krsticic, Donald; Srnic, Kanga, Radonjic; Boakye.
Referee L Banti (It)
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010