Arsene Wenger received some positive news this week, as Jack Wilshere will be available to make his long-awaited return from injury in Arsenal’s FA Cup semifinal against Reading on Saturday. The England midfielder has been out since November having undergone two ankle procedures, but, after turning out as an overage player for Arsenal’s Under-21 side for the second week running, Wenger suggested he could be named in the squad at Wembley Stadium.
“He has improved physically,” Wenger said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I think he is available for selection now to be in the squad for Saturday.”
Wilshere played for 88 minutes against Reading’s U-21 side on Monday, and has now been back in training for several weeks after having his anticipated return in February delayed by a second procedure. The 23-year-old is understandably eager to get back to the full throttle tempo of a Premier League match.
“Training here with the quality and intensity, for me, coming back from injury, is what I need,” he told Arsenal’s official website. “You can play as much as you want in the Under-21s, but you cannot get that intensity of the Premier League. In training here, the little eight-a-side and keep balls is top level, so that’s what I need. Everyone looks forward to the training session before the game, it is short and sharp. Everyone is fighting for a position in the team and you can really tell that.”
Arsenal’s injuries have lessened considerably in recent weeks, which Wenger believes is one of the leading factors in the club’s current eight-match winning run. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is set to miss at least another two weeks with a groin injury, and captain Mikel Arteta, still lacking match fitness, remain unavailable.
The quality of Arsenal’s performances has meant that there has been little rotation of their starting lineup in recent weeks. Yet, despite being strong favorites to beat Championship opponents Reading at Wembley and having a potentially vital Premier League match with Chelsea eight days later, Wenger stressed that Saturday was not an occasion to give some recently under-utilized players a run out.
“It’s not a game that I look at as an opportunity for some individual players,” he said. “It’s just for us an opportunity to go to the final, and I’ll pick the team that in my opinion has the best chance to win the game. I’m concerned about finding a balance, that’s for sure, but a collective balance. It can include [some players who haven’t been playing regularly] or not. I haven’t decided yet who will start the game on Saturday.”
Wenger did, though, reveal that he has made one selection decision for the semifinal. Having been first-choice in the Premier League and missing Arsenal’s run to the FA Cup trophy last season, Wojciech Szczesny will now start at Wembley after losing his place in the league to David Ospina.
“He has played in the last round, he played at Manchester united and he had a very good performance,” Wenger said. “I believe it’s important that the two goalkeepers get competition and he will get competition in the FA Cup now as long as Ospina plays in the premier league.”