LONDON -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has urged midfielder Jack Wilshere to ignore his critics and let his football do the talking for him this season.
Media pundits such as former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and ex-Manchester United star Paul Scholes are among those who have questioned Wilshere's development at Arsenal, amid suggestions that the 22-year-old may struggle to hold down a place in the Gunners first team this season.
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Yet Wenger has suggested that his England midfielder needs to focus his attention on staying fit and turning in the best season yet of a career that he remains convinced will be hugely successful.
"I believe at the moment he should not respond to the criticism, just focus on his game," Wenger told reporters.
"If Wilshere can maintain his fitness, then he will make a huge career. At the moment, I believe he should just focus on that -- being fit, present and to improve physically. The rest will come along. I told him the target is for him to have the whole season being available to play."
Wenger went on to compare the expectations around Wilshere to those experienced by Wayne Rooney in his formative years, with his recent recruit Calum Chambers now also coming under the spotlight as a potential England international in the making just three games into his Arsenal career.
"Before [Wilshere] was in Calum Chambers' position, then suddenly when you get to 22, the expectation level comes on you," stressed Wenger. "Rooney has gone through that, now it goes through Wilshere.
"He is not [progressing] as far as everyone expected him to be from when he was at 18, but that is because he was injured, not because he doesn't train seriously. He is a guy who when he goes out there, he wants to play, he works hard but he was out for one and a half years."
The imminent return of German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil will put further pressure on Wilshere's place in the Arsenal side, yet Wenger has hinted he may yet consider adding to his midfield options in this transfer window.
The news that Sami Khedira may be available this summer after he turned down the offer of a new contract at Real Madrid may be of interest to Wenger, who has been persistently linked with a move to the Germany star throughout this summer.
When asked whether he would consider signing a defensive-minded midfielder, Wenger responded with a smile by saying: "We are not against that."