Arsene Wenger backs Jack Wilshere as future Arsenal captain
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has backed Jack Wilshere's chances of becoming Arsenal captain one day, saying the midfielder is "one of the leaders of the future."
Wilshere is expected to sign a new Arsenal contract after proving his fitness and form over the last few months, and started as captain for the first time in the Carabao Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
While the midfielder limped off with a minor ankle sprain in that game, he later told Sky Sports that it was "a special feeling" to wear the armband and said he wants to club captain some day. And Wenger isn't ruling out the possibility after seeing Wilshere get back to his best following an ankle fracture he suffered while on loan at Bournemouth last season.
"I see him [as a possible captain] because he's an Arsenal man. He was here at the age of 10. Not only because he was here for a long time, but he has some leadership qualities, he has a football brain, he is completely focused on Arsenal," Wenger said.
"The fact that he has been away [on loan], he comes back, he realises as well that life is not so bad here maybe. And that is something that is important, that he can be one of the leaders of the future."
Contract talks are still ongoing with Wilshere, whose terms expires this summer. Arsenal are reportedly offering a deal that would offer a lower base salary but with plenty of performance-based incentives that would amount to a pay rise if he stays fit.
Both sides have made it clear they want a deal agreed, though, and a new long-term contract could see Wilshere stay at Arsenal for his entire career.
"Who would question his love and commitment for the club? Nobody. We have to find an agreement that makes him happy, and we wish of course that in the future he remains fit," Wenger said.
Wilshere's career has been interrupted by numerous lengthy injury layoffs, and he hasn't played 30 league games in a season since 2010-11. But at 26, Wilshere has learned to take care of his body and is "religiously" following a special preventative fitness regime, Wenger said.
Indeed, the midfielder has avoided any serious injuries this season, and shrugged off the ankle sprain suffered against Chelsea by playing in the very next game.
"He's much more patient and mature, analyses better. Before, his desire to play was the only thing that mattered. Today he can analyse better, is he fit or not fit, what does he have to do?" Wenger said. "He has a lot of prevention to do, and he does that religiously now. Before he was a bit more, 'My body can take that,' like we all were when we were 20 years old."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.