Former England assistant manager Stuart Pearce believes Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere will not play a single minute at this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil. The ex-Manchester City boss feels the 22-year-old is severely lacking in confidence and form and will not be deployed by Roy Hodgson - even as a substitute.
Pearce, who was sacked from his role as the England Under-21 manager by the Football Association last September, believes Wilshere may have even regressed as a player since he burst onto the scene several years ago. The midfielder was once heralded as the next great hope for English football, but his career has been plagued by various injuries.
Wilshere played in England’s recent World Cup warm-up matches against Ecuador and Honduras in Miami, but Pearce was less than impressed with what he saw from the England international.
"I think he [Wilshere] is very, very short of form,” he told talkSPORT. “Watching the last game [against Honduras] I didn't see a Wilshere that sprung on the scene many months ago.
"I just think he is very, very short of confidence and I see Lampard, Lallana or Barkley ahead of him now.
"I just feel his lack of form really [will cost him] and that will be on Roy's mind. He had a very disappointing last game and he has not shown me the fully fit Wilshere we saw when he came on the scene."
Critics will point to the fact Pearce accused Wilshere - and other English starlets - of apathy while he was managing the Under-21 side and might suggest he is using this as an opportunity to take an unnecessary personal dig at the Gunners’ central midfielder. Pearce felt a handful of established stars - including Wilshere - should have been more eager to represent their country at the European Under-21 Championships.
However, he went on to predict that Wilshere will not be the only player in the England squad who fails to play a single minute of football in Brazil over the next few weeks. Pearce thinks Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and Southampton left-back Luke Shaw - who is expected to join the Red Devils after the World Cup finishes - will also be watching on from the sidelines, along with the Three Lions’ two back-up goalkeepers, Fraser Forster and Ben Foster.
"I think there are five players that will not kick a ball at the World Cup,” the 52-year-old added. “Forster and Foster are the obvious ones and I think Shaw, Smalling and Wilshere will be the others.”
England take on Italy on their World Cup Group D opener against Italy in Manaus on Saturday evening. The match is a repeat of the Euro 2012 quarter-final, which the Azzurri won on penalties, but humid conditions in the northern Brazil are expected to take their toll on both sides.
Whichever side copes with the heat best could determine which of the nations takes all three points from one of the most eagerly-anticipated matches of the group stages.