Arsenal's Arsene Wenger hasn't ruled out Jack Wilshere loan
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says Jack Wilshere must prove he's back to his best this season before being offered a new Arsenal contract, and hasn't ruled out sending the midfielder out on loan again.
Wilshere has only made five Arsenal appearances in the last two years, and his latest injury comeback from a fractured ankle took a turn for the worse when he was sent off during a game with the Under-23s on Monday for scrapping with an opponent.
He's now entering the final season of his contract and will likely find playing time hard to come by even when fully fit, with Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey the two first-choice central midfielders in Wenger's current system.
Arsenal have yet to offer Wilshere a new deal, and Wenger made it clear that any future talks will depend on the 25-year-old can prove himself on the pitch.
"If he gets back to his best and wants to stay, we have to sit down later in the season," Wenger said. "I don't rule that out. ... You know how much I love Jack and his talent.
"I started him at the age of 17 but today in the football world you need to be a consistent presence and what is at stake for Jack is not his quality, his talent or his determination, it is whether he is a consistent presence at the top. I hope he can manage to do that, and after nobody questions his quality."
Wilshere spent last season at Bournemouth after making a late request to go out on loan in search of regular playing time, having had the previous campaign ruined by another ankle injury.
He made 27 league appearances for Eddie Howe's team -- his most since 2010-11 -- but his season ended with another injury suffered against Tottenham in April.
The midfielder has attracted interest from both English and foreign clubs this summer but Wenger said last week that he expects Wilshere to be at the Emirates this season. However, he eased his stance on Thursday, saying he hasn't ruled out at least another loan move.
"I'm open with Jack. We have honest conversations. I'm open to what is the best for him," Wenger said. "He is at the stage of his career where he needs to play and I cannot guarantee him that today, and I think I'm quite open on that."
Wilshere is available for Sunday's game at Liverpool despite his sending off with the U23s, although he's unlikely to be part of the matchday squad as he's still regaining match fitness.
Wilshere was shown a straight red for retaliating for a late tackle by pushing a Manchester City opponent and then scrapping with another. Wenger, though, made it clear at his news conference on Thursday that he won't hold Wilshere's latest transgression against him.
"At my stage and with my experience in football, I can understand a lot -- especially what happened to him. Ideally he should not have responded at all but when you have gone through what he has gone through, with bad tackles, it was a human reaction," Wenger said.
"At the moment he is working very hard to come back after his fracture so overall another setback would be terrible and it was a bad tackle."
The ban for his red card was been reduced to two games on appeal on Thursday after an independent disciplinary commission ruled out the wrongful dismissal claim but upheld the appeal of excessive punishment.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.