Arsène Wenger has ignited another club versus country row after criticising England's decision to call up Jack Wilshere for next week's friendly against Sweden, just two weeks after his return from long-term injury and against the Arsenal manager's wishes.
Wilshere has played only three games for his club since returning from 16 months out injured, and Wenger made it very clear last night that he was against the England manager, Roy Hodgson, picking the midfielder for the trip to Stockholm, but was powerless to stop him.
Wenger said: "I wouldn't like to come out on my feelings on that because at the moment they are not very positive. I saw it coming. That's all I can say."
Asked whether he would rather Wilshere had not been chosen, the Frenchman was clear. He said: "Yes. Of course. [But] I have no choice. If they call him up, they call him up. I have good relations with Roy Hodgson. We spoke about the situation, he knows my feeling and I know his feeling."
Arsenal have an understanding with the Football Association that Wilshere will only play for 45 minutes but Wenger pointed out that his first ankle injury was sustained playing for England in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland in June 2011. "First of all, he has not been injured with Arsenal, he has been injured with England," Wenger said, before adding his disdain for the autumn friendly, months before any competitive game.
"The friendlies in November, you don't know how they can prepare you for a game in February," Wenger said. "Basically, there are a lot of politics behind these games as well because when you see some teams travelling during that period, you think it is more to pay back some corporation rather than preparing a team for the next official game." The FA later denied that there was any such arrangement, though Sweden are likely to earn a reciprocal friendly at Wembley.
Meanwhile, in another setback for Wenger, Theo Walcott moved closer to the Arsenal exit. The winger is in the final year of his contract and new deal talks have still not reopened in spite of him scoring four goals in three games for the club, leaving the player less than two months from being able to negotiate with foreign clubs.
Walcott, who will be a free agent in June, has told Arsenal that he will not resume talks until he is back in the first team on a regular basis, having been largely ignored by Wenger since rejecting a £75,000-a-week deal to stay.
He started the games against Reading in the Capital One Cup last week, and against Schalke in Germany but was left out of last weekend's trip to Manchester United.
The signs increasingly point to a summer departure for Walcott, who would be of interest to Manchester City and Chelsea on a free transfer. While Arsenal have said publicly that the impasse over his contract has nothing to do with him being left out of the team, Walcott has been told otherwise in private.
Should he be left out of tomorrow's match against Fulham then the stand-off between club and player is only likely to deepen. Walcott, 23, has become even more entrenched in his views on the matter. He believes that he should be given the chance to play in attack and that the club should at least negotiate on their £75,000-a-week deal, rather than the "take it or leave it" stance adopted by Dick Law, Wenger's unofficial director of football.
Alongside Wilshere and Walcott in the England squad, Hodgson confirmed their club-mate Carl Jenkinson would be drafted in to face Sweden, provided Fifa clearance is received in time. The full-back was a surprise omission from the 23-man squad unveiled yesterday, as a result of red tape arising from the player's previous appearance at youth level for Finland.
Jenkinson will make it six uncapped players in line for a debut against Sweden, with Everton's Leon Osman, Celtic's highly impressive goalkeeper Fraser Forster, the Tottenham centre-back Steven Caulker, Stoke's Ryan Shawcross and Liverpool's 17-year-old Raheem Sterling all named in the squad.
Arsene Wenger was speaking at the opening the Arsenal Lung Function Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The opening marked 'one month to go' until Arsenal's dedicated charity matchday for The Arsenal Foundation against West Bromwich Albion, when the manager will join players in donating a day's wages to fund more projects that transform young people's lives. For further info visit: www.arsenal.com/thearsenalfoundation