England's World Cup squad could include Jack Wilshere, others - Gareth Southgate
LONDON -- England manager Gareth Southgate said it is not too late for Arsenal's Jack Wilshere to be included in his 23-man World Cup squad.
Wilshere was hoping to win a first England cap since the Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland under Roy Hodgson in the friendlies against Netherlands and Italy but was forced to withdraw from the squad with a minor knee injury.
The 26-year-old midfielder has enjoyed a renaissance with Arsenal this season, making 31 appearances in all competitions, but he will not have a chance to impress Southgate before the manager names his final squad in late May.
"I don't think it's too late for anybody," Southgate said at a news conference before Tuesday's friendly against Italy at Wembley Stadium. "It's obviously more difficult [for Wilshere]. There are a couple of guys who haven't had the chance to play for us despite being in squads, but we'll still be monitoring everyone between now and the end of the season because there will be 30 or 31 players in contention and none of us know what will happen in the next eight weeks.
"We have to assess [his injury record] as we do with every player. Some players have niggles. Others haven't played as many minutes as others. The balance of the squad I have to get right. Those in the squad have to be physically able to show their ability.
"That's most important. I have no reason to believe Jack Wilshere wouldn't be back for Arsenal's next game. It's an ongoing issue he has to manage. He wouldn't have been ready tomorrow."
Southgate will also be without Harry Kane against Italy as the Tottenham striker continues to recover from an ankle injury.
Kane is free from a protective boot and he spoke with Southgate at Hotspur Way -- Spurs' Enfield training base, where England are preparing for the match against Italy -- on Sunday.
"I don't know when he'll be back, but he was confident that would be sooner rather than later," Southgate said. "His mindset is very positive. I would imagine he'll be back fairly quickly. None of these lads wants to miss games. They've all got big matches coming up and want to play a part, and in the summer."
England beat Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam on Friday and Southgate is hoping to build on a positive performance against Italy, who he believes are stronger than they appear despite failing to qualify for the World Cup.
"I'm not so sure they're in so much of a state as people would say. They were in Spain's group," Southgate said. "OK, they didn't get the playoffs right, but they've got good players and are a proud footballing nation. They won't roll over. They've got good players. The coach organises his teams well, good detail. They'll press us with more intensity than we were pressed the other night, which is a good challenge for us."
Southgate also confirmed that he'll make changes to his squad on Tuesday in order to get a closer look at players he's considering for the World Cup.
"Some of these guys, it's important we see them in the games," Southgate said. "Some we've brought in to still feel part of the group, or to look at them for the first time and how they train with us. We have to look beyond the summer as well.
"We're trying to build on what we've done in the last few matches, and a healthy performance the other night. On Friday, we managed to achieve pretty much all the things we were trying to. Let's hope we do so again tomorrow."
Southgate, who confirmed that Jack Butland would start in goal on Tuesday after Jordan Pickford started against Netherlands, insisted his young England team must be allowed to mature and admitted he is already "looking beyond the summer."
"We have to allow this young team to go and perform. There are some super exciting young players," Southgate said. "The reason there's been a disconnect with the team is not what they've done, but what teams I played in did. The historic stuff. We have to give them the freedom to learn together. They don't have around 50 caps.
"There are years ahead of them yet and they can grow as a group. We have to give them space to do that. I know people don't always want to do that, but for these guys to perform as I believe they can and to go beyond where we're currently ranked, we should allow them to do that."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.