Arsene Wenger has revealed Jack Wilshere is close to making a full return for Arsenal – but says he will not rush the midfielder back into action after 14 months out of the game.
Wilshere played in his third game since 2011 this week as he continues his comeback from a string of injury problems, a behind-closed-doors friendly at Chelsea to go along with his two appearances for Arsenal’s under-21 side.
Wenger also disputed claims made by England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce that Wilshere could take part in the European Championships in Israel next summer.
“Let's wait until Jack comes back. He has not played in the first team for 14 months,” he said.
“Do you know what that is like, 14 months out of competition? He works very hard. He is doing well but let's not go too far.
“I never believe that a player, once he has gone up to the top team, plays well with the Under 21s,” Wenger added. “It does not exist - I have not got one example.
“That’s why I believe England has to make a decision - is Jack in the first team and not in the Under-21s?”
However Wenger says the 20-year-old is on course for a place in Arsenal’s squad for their Capital One Cup game against Reading later this month after one more warm up game.
“There are two aspects [to the recovery],” Wenger said. “One is the apprehension to go into challenges when you have too many injuries.
“On that front we are at 100 per cent. We even have to calm him down. He goes for every challenge and has no apprehension.
“Then you have the physical front - he is OK there. Then you have the match fitness - that is 80 per cent. He needs one more game, maybe Monday night with the reserves [against Everton], I don’t know. Then he should be back.”
Wilshere’s injury woes can be pinpointed to a problem picked up on international duty with England in 2011 – and current Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson says he is keen to dampen expectations he could be back playing international football straight away.
"The thing we've got to realise about Jack, as Arsene mentioned, is that he's been out of football for a long time," said Hodgson.
"He's a wonderful talent and of course it would be terrific if he could reproduce that form when he becomes involved again.
"But I'm also keen to play down the expectations.
"When you've been out for well over a year, to come back and play like he was before might take a little bit of time."