• Premier League

Wenger: Wilshere 80% match fit

ESPN staff
October 19, 2012
Jack Wilshere recently completed 90 minutes of football © PA Photos

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed Jack Wilshere is on the cusp of making his first-team comeback, revealing the England midfielder is at 80 per cent match fitness.

Wilshere has not featured for the Gunners over the past 14 months due to a longstanding ankle problem. However, he has played in a number of Under-21 games for the club and recently completed 90 minutes.

Wenger addressed claims that Stuart Pearce would look to take Wilshere to the Under-21 European Championships next summer, stating his belief that it is too early to discuss such matters. But he delivered a positive verdict on the playmaker's progress.

"I believe it is premature [to discuss Under-21s]," Wenger said. "Let's wait until Jack comes back. He has not played for 14 months. He works very hard, he's doing well, but let's not go too far.

"There's two aspects. One is the apprehension to go into challenges. But we have to calm him down because he goes for every challenge!

"Then you have physical fitness, he's there. And then you have match fitness, where he's at 80%."

Wenger confirmed Theo Walcott will and Kieran Gibbs will miss Arsenal's Premier League trip to Norwich this weekend, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in the squad.

Walcott suffered a nasty collision early in England's World Cup qualifier with San Marino, damaging his chest and lungs. The Arsenal speedster needed hospital treatment, and Wenger says he will not feature at Carrow Road.

"Theo is out for Saturday, for sure," Wenger said. "He has an injury to his chest and lungs. We have to treat that clinically. He's quickly short of breath when he makes an effort but it's bruising and that will heal. It's no major concern but it will take we think about two weeks to be back to a normal level."

Gibbs suffered his injury during the league victory over West Ham, and Wenger expects the left-back to miss both the Norwich game this weekend and the Champions League encounter with Schalke in midweek.

"Kieran Gibbs is out for Saturday because he went off against West Ham. He's not healed yet. He has a little chance to be ready for Wednesday and a bigger chance for QPR."

Wojciech Szczesny, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are all "a few weeks away" from making their return, while Lukas Fabianski is set to have a scan on an ankle ligament problem on Thursday.

However, Oxlade-Chamberlain should be fine to play despite England's delayed qualifier in Poland on Wednesday. The youngster only featured as a 73rd-minute sub so Wenger will include him in his plans.

"He will be in the squad for the weekend," Wenger told Arsenal Player. "It's not easy to deal with that [kind of delay]. When you prepare for a game, it's a disappointment not to play. Then you always have problems to sleep and the next day you have to get ready again."

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