Jack Wilshere is to speak with Arsene Wenger about his role in the team next season, with the Arsenal manager warning that some of his central midfielders and attackers will also have to play out wide.
Wenger has been encouraged by Wilshere’s form and fitness since he returned from almost five months out with ankle ligament damage but is clearly still not ready to follow the lead of Roy Hodgson and use him in a holding midfield role. Wilshere created one goal and also scored a penalty while playing in Mesut Ozil’s usual ‘No 10’ position in Arsenal’s 4-0 win against a Singapore Select XI.
Wenger suggested that Wilshere would play in different attacking roles next season rather than in the shielding midfield position that he has been occupying so effectively for Hodgson’s England.
“For me he can play in all the offensive positions,” said Wenger. “Wide, central, and we have many good creative players. They will all tell you they want to play centrally. Unfortunately, some have to go wide as well.”
Wilshere was largely used only as a substitute after coming back from injury last season, with Aaron Ramsey generally also playing away from his preferred position in the centre so that Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin could be paired together. Mikel Arteta also hopes to regain his central midfield place following calf surgery although he will not now play any of the pre-season games in Singapore after suffering a new calf strain.
Arteta did still train on Wednesday and the injury is not regarded as serious but is a set-back nonetheless given that he has not played a first-team match since November last year. Asked if he had spoken this summer to Wenger yet about where he might play, Wilshere said: “I haven’t spoken to him but I will do before the start of the season. I’m just concentrating on getting fit.”
Wilshere actually requested to return several days early from his summer holiday and Wenger believes that he is now close again to his peak.
“Already in the last two or three games of last season, he has found his burst back,” said Wenger. “His acceleration. For him and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] it is a big part of their game. To be efficient they need that. There are high demands physically to be perfect. He is getting close. Top level today is so demanding physical that to be in and out is a nightmare for the players. He needs continuity. After that we play so many games. We have a big squad but not a massive one, and the opportunities will be there for everyone.”
Wilshere said that he had been determined to build on the momentum of how he ended last season.
“I wanted to come in early because I felt I missed too much of last and wanted to give myself the best opportunity,” he said. “It’s down to us as individuals to make that place ours but I’m up for the challenge and I’m sure the other boys are as well.”
Another young English player now hoping to seize his chance at Arsenal is Chuba Akpom. The 19-year-old scored a hat-trick against the Singapore Select XI and, following loan spells at Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest, Wenger intends to integrate him in his first-team squad next season.
Olivier Giroud is the only other out and out striker, although Wenger does also regard Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez as important options in that position.
“This season I plan to keep Chuba Akpom with us,” said Wenger. “It’s down to performance and attitude and he has that way to make a big talent and, after, to be an efficient player week in week out. That’s the target.
“Scoring three goals is encouragement to do well and work even harder. He’s a young player and it can lift confidence. The confidence you sense in the dressing room from other players is important as well.”
Akpom has been at Arsenal since the age of six and signed a new contract in January to remain at the club until 2019. Mathieu Flamini also believes that he can still extend a contract that expires next summer despite being used largely as a substitute following Coquelin’s emergence in the holding midfield role last season.
“I don’t like to give up that easily,” said Flamini. “In football everything can move very easily. I don’t like to look back at the past. We are starting a new season and I’m focused on that."