Wilshere risks Wenger wrath with U21 request
Jack Wilshere has openly contradicted the opinion of Arsene Wenger by arguing that playing for England in the European U-21 Championships this summer would only benefit his development.
The 19-year-old midfielder completed his 44th game for club and country this season for the England senior side against Ghana on Tuesday night, but declared that he felt fitter than at any stage in his career.
Wenger has already outlined his opposition to Wilshere's involvement for both the senior and U-21 teams this summer. He is also adamant that Wilshere will need a proper rest following his breakthrough season, especially as he could be involved in the European Championships next summer.
"I've been playing Saturday and Wednesday in the Champions League this season and now we're out of the Champions League I'm going to get more of a rest anyway," said Wilshere. "I think the manager (Wenger) is just delighted that I've been picked for my national team.
"I want to play (for the U-21s) but it's up to Stuart Pearce, Fabio Capello and my manager at Arsenal. They will talk about it and see what's best for me.
"I'm always in contact with my manager at Arsenal. I'll be talking to him over the next few weeks about it. I feel better than ever. I feel fitter than ever and fresh."
Wilshere cited Germany, whose team at the 2010 World Cup contained four players who had won the 2009 European U-21 Championships, as evidence of the wider benefits of participating in an U-21 tournament.
"It can only be good for my career," said Wilshere. "If you look at the Germans, when they won the U-21 tournament, they went to the World Cup and had such a good tournament.
"It's important to start winning international tournaments early and hopefully you can take it to the world stage. It helps you develop a lot. The more you play with players you know, the better you're going to do individually and as a team."
Wilshere appears to have established himself in Capello's midfield and, after a fortnight in which the Italian's man-management has been widely criticised, he also called for some perspective.
"Before the World Cup he couldn't do wrong, and since the World Cup everyone has been getting onto his back," said Wilshere.
"We need to give him a break. He is a great manager. He has proved it at clubs before and he has got a great record for England. He is one of the best managers I've ever worked with."
Wilshere, though, still does not feel certain of his place. "You're only as good as your last game," he said.
He is likely to be back in league action on Saturday when Arsenal face Blackburn and the Gunners are optimistic that Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott could all be fit for the game.
Van Persie came off at half-time with a knee injury in the Netherlands' 5-3 victory over Hungary in Amsterdam on Tuesday, and Arsenal were yesterday awaiting results of a scan.
But the club are hopeful the injury will not prove serious. After the Euro 2012 qualifier, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said: "He was hit by a knee just above his own. It didn't look serious but it was too painful for him to carry on. With luck he could play for Arsenal this weekend."
Earlier this season Van Persie missed three months with an ankle injury picked up on international duty.
Arsenal are also optimistic that Fabregas, Walcott, Alex Song and Abou Diaby have recovered from their injuries and will be given the all-clear to return against Blackburn.
Fabregas has been out since March 8. Song has not played since injuring his knee in the League Cup final, while Walcott has been sidelined since damaging his ankle in the league victory over Stoke last month. Diaby missed the 2-2 draw with West Brom with a groin injury.
Meanwhile, 41-year-old goalkeeper Jens Lehmann described his Arsenal comeback for the reserves in a 2-1 defeat against Wigan as "very beneficial", despite making a string of mistakes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)