Arsene Wenger insists “world class” Jack Wilshere’s Arsenal future is not under threat despite sanctioning the England international’s loan move to Bournemouth.
Wilshere, 24, has struggled with injuries in the past three years and last played 90 minutes for Arsenal almost two years ago – a 2-1 League Cup defeat to Southampton on September 23, 2014.
He came off the bench twice for the Gunners this season and was axed from Sam Allardyce’s first England squad due to lack of game time, with the likes of Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil all above him in the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium.
Those circumstances led to a meeting with Wenger where it was decided Wilshere would be better off moving away on loan, with Bournemouth the club to seal a deal until the end of the season.
Despite letting Wilshere leave on a temporary basis to improve his fitness and play more minutes, Wenger will not be looking to move him on when he returns and believes he is a top-quality player.
Asked if Wilshere’s Arsenal career was in the balance, Wenger replied: “No, not at all, no. He wanted games and I can understand his desire.
“I felt it was a logical decision. Let’s not forget that last year he didn’t play. He’s in a position where you need games. You can’t not compete for two seasons and then want to be at the top level.
“It’s important for him that he gets the number of games this season.
“I think Jack Wilshere is a world class player. He has a great footballing brain, and understands everything that is going on on the football pitch. He is most dangerous when you give him the ball in the final third.
“We had a chat together and he himself was concerned that he would not get enough competition early enough, because he feels ready to play.
“I couldn’t guarantee that, so that’s why [we took] the decision. I think it looks logical to give him time to really come back to a competitive level. At some stage you need competition and I couldn’t guarantee him that.”
Wilshere has had to make do with being fitted into both the Arsenal and England teams when healthy and was a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2016 given his lack of playing time last season.
He is expected to feature further forward for Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, with Wenger pleased that he will be given licence to impact games at the attacking end of the pitch.
“Personally that’s where I prefer him,” he said.
“For me, it was always a shame when he played too deep and too close to the goal because I like him where he can create. The thinking behind the [move] was that he would get regular football and come back to what he is – a world class football player.
“He’s a world class player and he doesn’t have to show me that he has the quality to play at Bournemouth, just that he comes back to a regular competitive level.”
Wenger may not have Wilshere available for Saturday’s visit of Southampton but he could hand Premier League debuts to his two recent arrivals, with defender Shkodran Mustafi and forward Lucas Perez expected to play some part.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he said when asked about playing the new duo.
“That’s a decision I have to make, and I have to see how everyone comes back and who I will start tomorrow.
“They bring us qualities. Mustafi is a young centre back and already has international experience. Lucas Perez is an interesting striker who is versatile, can play on the flank and especially though the middle.
“He can score goals and can also provide a good number of assists. With the way I like to play, that’s an interesting quality.”
There are also doubts over Alexis Sanchez’s involvement after he returned from South America on Thursday having played every minute of Chile’s two World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Bolivia, while Aaron Ramsey is still sidelined with a hamstring injury.