Jack Wilshere's path to starting XI blocked by Alexis, Ozil - Wenger
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has made it clear that Jack Wilshere's path into Arsenal's first team is still being blocked by Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, but hopes a return to the England side will give a psychological boost to the midfielder.
Wilshere has impressed in the Europa League and Carabao Cup for the Gunners this season, playing as one of the two attacking midfielders behind the striker -- positions that are occupied by Sanchez and Ozil in Wenger's Premier League lineup.
While many have called for Wilshere to replace either Granit Xhaka or Aaron Ramsey in central midfield for league games, Wenger said those positions aren't a good fit for him in the current back-three system.
"In my head, he's more a little bit higher up [the field]. I see him more a player who can affect the game in the final third than a player who is a box-to-box player," Wenger said ahead of Thursday's Europa League game against Red Star Belgrade. "He's a little bit in conflict in this position with Ozil and Sanchez. I believe he can as well play in midfield in a 4-2-3-1, he can play midfield in a 4-3-3. In the system we play, I see him a bit more advanced."
Despite limited playing time this season as Wilshere made his return from a broken ankle, he could be in line for a return to the England team. Wenger said he spoke to England manager Gareth Southgate about the midfielder before Saturday's game against Swansea, and gave him the all-clear for a call-up.
"He just asked me how he is, and I said, look, I have no restriction, he is very good," Wenger said. "Personally, I think he's ready. He was not three weeks ago but he is today. ... I don't know how you can keep a super-fit Jack out of the England squad."
Wilshere hasn't played for England since Euro 2016, and has never been called up by Southgate. But despite the risk of another injury, Wenger is hoping the player makes the list for the upcoming friendlies against Germany and Brazil as he knows what it would mean for the midfielder.
"I am convinced that it would help him, personally. When you have been so frustrated at so many times [by injuries], every positive experience is welcome," Wenger said. "And it would be a positive one, because you have the World Cup, you have a new manager who hasn't called him up yet. So that certainly would play a positive part in his head."
Despite his good form, however, Wilshere still has to wait another month before he finds out whether Arsenal will offer him a new contract. Wilshere's current deal expires next summer, and Wenger said at the start of the season that the injury-plagued player has to prove his fitness and consistency in order to get an extension. And that's still Arsenal's stance, although Wenger made it clear that a decision will be made before the start of the January transfer window.
"I've said many times, that will be decided in December," Wenger said. "I wanted to give him six months not to think about that, and see where we go."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.