Wilshere 'wrong fit' for depleted England

Tom WILLIAMS
Arsenal's midfielder Jack Wilshere gestures to supporters on the pitch after the English League Cup fourth round football match against Norwich City October 24, 2017

England manager Gareth Southgate has muddied the waters regarding Jack Wilshere's international status by saying the Arsenal midfielder is not playing in the right position to be selected.

Southgate had previously justified his decision not to pick Wilshere by citing the 25-year-old's problematic injury record.

Despite a glut of withdrawals from his squad, Southgate has again overlooked Wilshere, instead drafting in uncapped Burnley midfielder Jack Cork and West Bromwich Albion's Jake Livermore.

With Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling among those missing, Southgate has confirmed Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, will make his debut in Friday's friendly against Germany.

The injury blight has further highlighted the paucity of options Southgate has in central midfield, but the manager says Wilshere has been playing too high up the pitch to provide a potential solution.

"Jack played as a number 10 all of last season on loan at Bournemouth," Southgate told reporters on Thursday.

"That is not the way we are playing. When we have played with a 10, we have had Dele and (Adam) Lallana. But we are not playing with a 10 tomorrow.

"I don't think Jack is a 10. I think he is a deeper player, but he is not playing deeper. You'd have to ask Arsene (Wenger, the Arsenal manager) why that was.

"But I want to be clear: I really like Jack Wilshere as a player. I think he is a talent and I really respect him as an individual. And I'm hoping that we are in a position in March where we can pick him."

Talented but brittle, Wilshere has made only two substitute appearances in the Premier League this season, but Wenger has led calls for him to be recalled by England with a view to next year's World Cup in Russia.

- 'Driving at defences' -

Southgate also revealed Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater had turned down an invitation to join up with the squad.

Drinkwater has been working to overcome a calf injury since joining Chelsea from Leicester City during the close season and Southgate was cautious not to blame him for rejecting his country's call.

"He's not been fit for the last three camps. You can't do anything about that," Southgate said during a briefing at England's St George's Park training base in Burton-on-Trent, central England.

"I thought it would be worth finding out where he was, given there's a chance he plays for Chelsea this year and plays at a good level.

"But he missed quite a bit of pre-season and I'm back to individual players knowing where they are physically in terms of what they are capable of."

The misfortunes that have befallen England's more established midfielders have opened the door for 21-year-old Loftus-Cheek.

The tall, elegant midfielder has been enjoying his first sustained run of Premier League football since joining Palace and Southgate is looking forward to seeing how he fares against world champions Germany.

"He's always been the biggest kid in the playground, but he's not a player who's survived on physical strength," said Southgate, whose side face Brazil in another high-profile Wembley friendly on Tuesday.

"He's a player of great technique. He's a different sort of player, at his best in behind the opposition midfield, driving at defences.

"Great technical quality, dribbling ability, power; I think he's a really exciting player.

"He's quite a quiet lad, so I'm hoping he gets a lift in confidence from how we see him and the level we think he's capable of."