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â€¢ Returning midfielder should be playing again in five weeks
â€¢ 20-year-old must prove fitness before playing for England
Jack Wilshere is on course to give Arsenal and England a major boost by returning from injury in time for the Premier League run-in and the summer’s European Championship. It was previously feared that the midfielder would be unable to play again until next season but ArsÃ¨ne Wenger has revealed that, if the 20-year-old’s recovery continues to progress at the present rate, he should be available for selection in about five weeks.
Wenger, whose team host Aston Villa on Saturday, said: “He is not back training with the squad yet but he is back with the ball and that is a huge step because the work we do with the ball is quite demanding. Now we can say that if all goes well, then in three weeks he can be back in full training with the squad and then it will take another two weeks to get fully fit. I think he will play this season if he has no setback. The last scan was positive so he should be capable of playing.”
Wilshere has not played a match since appearing for England against Switzerland last June at the end of his breakthrough senior season. Wenger warned at the time that the strain of that campaign had taken its toll and successfully lobbied for him to be withdrawn from the England squad for last summer’s Under-21 European Championship, but Wilshere subsequently broke down with a stress fracture of the ankle during pre-season training with Arsenal. He was expected to return from that around February but injured the same ankle again in late January, and his hopes of featuring this season appeared to have vanished.
That was a powerful blow to club and country, since in the course of last season Wilshere established himself as a player whose influence exceeded his years. Accordingly, the prospect of him returning to competitive action in time to feature in the business end of the domestic season and Euro 2012 will delight Arsenal and England supporters.
While declaring Wilshere’s return an imminent probability, Wenger is wary of putting too much pressure on the player. The manager said Arsenal will only field him if they are convinced he has regained full fitness and that if he has not featured for his club before the end of the season, then England should not consider calling him up for the Euros.
“That is a decision that, fortunately, I will not have to make,” said Wenger of a potential international call-up for his player. “I will only intervene if I believe medically he is at risk. If he has played some games before the end of the season for us, then it is a possibility. If he has not played before the end of the season, then I don’t think it is realistic. The next three weeks will decide how he progresses.” We have gone for a very cautious attitude with him – I will not force him into training with any pain so we might have to be slower than expected. I say three weeks to go back to full training with the squad but that is not sure. It all depends on how well he develops.”
Wenger added that if Wilshere is summoned for international duty in the summer, Arsenal would prefer he play in Euro 2012 rather than the Olympic Games, as the timing of the latter “destroys the start of our season”.
Wenger’s other plans for next season are well advanced, as he explained he hopes to conclude his transfer activity earlier than they did for the current campaign, when they had to scramble to sign three multi-million pound recruits on deadline day. “Last year was terrible for us because we finished on 31 August at five minutes to midnight and we do not want to repeat that. Quantity-wise we will not do a lot [this summer]. Quality-wise certainly and we will take a gamble if we find top quality.”
He expects to conclude the signing of the German striker Lukas Podolski from KÃ¶ln but would not say how close the deal is to being done. “I would like to see it completed sooner rather than later because the speed at which deals are done is important,” said Wenger, who denied reports that striker has already passed a medical at the club.