Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 February 2018

Wenger: Wilshere can take pressure

Jack Wilshere had a disappointing game in Ukraine
Jack Wilshere had a disappointing game in Ukraine

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has no doubts midfielder Jack Wilshere can carry the weight of a nation's expectation firmly on his young shoulders to help drive England on to World Cup glory in Brazil.

The role of Wilshere, who turns 22 on January 1, within the England side came in for scrutiny following a somewhat laboured display during the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in Kiev on Tuesday night, which ended goalless.

Wilshere has seen his progress hampered by a series of niggling injuries, which ruled the naturally combative midfielder out of contention for both England's 2012 European Championship finals campaign and representing Team GB at the London Olympics.

However, Wenger believes Wilshere's character can match that of France linchpin Zinedine Zidane as England look to secure qualification for next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil with home games against Montenegro and Poland next month, before aiming to go on and make a major impact on the tournament.

"If Jack Wilshere has the same game at Arsenal we just say 'okay, today he was not at his best' - but when he has that game in the national team suddenly everyone questions your ability," said Wenger.

"The players find it a bit more difficult to handle (things) in the national team with that kind of mental pressure which comes from everybody.

"National teams need always a guy who absorbs this type of pressure and takes it, we (France) had Zidane - when the France team played well it was all Zidane, but (that meant) the others could (just) play. You need a good generation, but as well also need one player.

"Be positive. Jack can take that (role). He is young, only 22. He has the capacity to do that, but he needs to play six months without any problem."

Wenger feels Wilshere's biggest hurdle will be steering clear of further injury setbacks.

"Jack has the personality to be a top, top, top player. He has gone through a difficult period," the Arsenal boss continued.

"The problem in the modern game, you need to be absolutely 100% physically (fit) to express your talent, or you don't.

"At the moment Jack is not completely at his best physically, that is why people start to question his performances, but I think he is a fantastic footballer and he will show that. He (just) needs consistency now."

Press Association

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