A victory for common sense and Wenger as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere gets his break
Gunners’ boss is finally listened to by the FA as in-demand teenager is omitted by England
If there is a single positive to be taken from Arsenal’s end of season collapse and subsequent fourth-placed finish, it is the reprieve granted to Jack Wilshere.
Wilshere’s omission from the England Under-21 squad to travel to this summer’s European Championship was met with relief by everyone at the club – apart perhaps from the player himself – and is particularly satisfying for Arsene Wenger, opposed to his inclusion all along.
Whether Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce relented under pressure from Wenger or a belated word from England manager Fabio Capello is unclear, but what is clear is that both Wilshere and Arsenal will benefit from a decision which amounted to little more than common sense.
The ridiculous prospect of Arsenal’s 19-year-old following up more than 50 games this season with a potentially draining major international tournament is now thankfully gone, and Wilshere will get the rest he needs and deserves after he plays for the England senior side against Switzerland on Saturday June 4.
This has, in all likelihood, only come about thanks to Arsenal’s failure to guarantee Champions League group stage football for next season. Fourth place behind Manchester City means they must play an ugly-looking two-legged qualifier either side of the second weekend of next season, on August 16 or 17, and 23 or 24.
Had Wilshere played for Pearce’s England youngsters between June 11 and 25, he would still have needed a month off, forcing him to miss Arsenal’s pre-season in early July and the opening weeks of the new campaign, weeks that already look crucial.
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“I said I wanted to play and I meant that,” said Wilshere. “I still want to play. It’s frustration. I spoke with the manager at Arsenal and I spoke with Fabio Capello.
“I saw him [Capello] in a lift after the Villa game. He just asked me how I felt physically. I got a kick on the knee, he asked me how my knee was and how I was physically, I know he spoke to Arsene Wenger as well so I just said my stats are showing…well, he knew, basically. It’s frustrating.
“Over the last few weeks, I started to get a bit tired. I spoke with Stuart Pearce. It was a bit awkward but he was very understanding. And with the Euros coming up, it was in everyone’s best interests for me to rest. If I was in the squad, I would have gone. I would never have pulled myself out and said ‘I’m not going’.”
Wilshere is now set for a month off, to return in time for Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Malaysia, beginning on July 13.
“I wasn’t going to go [to Malaysia] if I went away with the Under-21s because the rule is you have to have four weeks’ break. I’ll have to speak to the manager. I’m sure I’ll go to that one.
“It’s a lot of travelling, but for me it’s important to get a good pre-season under your belt.”
While Wilshere’s well-being has always been the priority for Wenger, the Gunners boss will be mightily relieved to have the midfielder potentially available for the Champions League qualifiers.
Arsenal are likely to be seeded in the draw, which takes place on August 5.
As the club with the highest Uefa coefficient, Bayern Munich would also be kept away from the Gunners, but Arsenal could still face tricky opponents in French side Paris St Germain, the Italians of Udinese, Rubin Kazan, FC Twente or even Dynamo Kyiv.
Finishing fourth has already handed under-pressure Wenger a headache for next season. But the decision over Wilshere has at least provided a timely boost for him and his flourishing midfielder.