Fabio Capello has outlined his plans to make Arsenal's Jack Wilshere the linchpin of his new England midfield, beginning with the friendly against Denmark next month in which the teenager will start a senior international for the first time.
The extent to which Capello has been impressed with Wilshere, 19, became clear over the course of a briefing given by the England manager to newspapers this week. Fitness permitting, Wilshere will be given every chance to establish himself as a fixture in Capello's side for the rest of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, most likely at the expense of Gareth Barry.
Capello said that as England manager he had not previously had a player of Wilshere's quality and attributes at his disposal. He compared him to the former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makélelé, whose name became synonymous with the holding midfield role, but said that Wilshere offered more attacking threat.
Unusually for Capello, who has not been given to grand statements about individuals, he left Wilshere in no doubt of his significance to the England team. "It will be important for Wilshere to understand that he will be the future," Capello said. "This is important."
The Italian has also confessed for the first time that he made a mistake in leaving Theo Walcott out of his England squad for the World Cup finals last summer. "He can play 25 minutes and be dangerous," Capello said of the Arsenal winger. "I made a mistake not selecting him. He's one of the players who can make the difference. I should have taken him."
Both players will be key to the friendly in Copenhagen a week on Wednesday, when Wilshere will be asked by Capello to fulfil the same role he does for Arsenal in front of the back four. The England manager has not yet decided whether he will use Wilshere as the single midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 system or as part of a central pair in a 4-4-2 formation – that will depend on the players at his disposal.
Capello said: "Wilshere will be one of the new players. He played just eight minutes at Wembley [against Hungary in August]. I have monitored him for five months. He's improved a lot. He's a really interesting player. I want to try to put him in this position [in front of back four]. I have to decide because he's so young, [if] he stays alone in midfield, probably that can be dangerous.
"We have to decide in the two days we stay together but I think he's one of the most interesting players in this moment. I think he's mature enough to play this role. When he started in some moments [occasions] he played without big confidence. He was timid, shy. Now every game he improves a lot, he plays with confidence, without fear and also the tackles he tries to win. He's very important."
Wilshere made his one senior England appearance in the first friendly after the World Cup finals against Hungary. He was left out of the squad by Capello for the two subsequent Euro 2012 qualifiers and recalled in November for the France friendly, although he did not play. Capello said Wilshere was crucial to Arsenal's passing style.
Asked whether the teenager was comparable to one of Capello's most famous former players, the Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo, the England manager said it was too early to tell. "Wilshere's too young now. Probably he can be better but depending on which style your team plays. The style of Milan was to play long ball sometimes, the style of Arsenal is a lot of passes.
"He [Wilshere] wins back the ball, he passes, he turns, dribbles, goes and shoots. I saw everything [in Wilshere's game]. But the style of Arsenal is touch, touch, touch, touch. Like Barcelona.
"[Owen] Hargreaves played this position very, very well every game. But after the knee problem, he never came back. I put different players in there but they never played in this position. I saw Wilshere play every game in this position. Barry with Villa [had] never played this position [before]. He started to play there only with me.
"Wilshere is the best young player that are playing all the time with Arsenal. If you play with Arsenal, you are a really good player because [Arsène] Wenger likes the good player."
Having admitted that he made a mistake over Walcott in May – although the player himself has since said that Capello was right to omit him – Capello said that he had seen a major change in the form of the 21-year-old relative to his performances at the end of last season.
Capello said: "Another thing I am really happy about is that Theo is back. He is playing how I remember when he started to play with us. It was a tough decision leaving Theo out for the World Cup. He played only two games before the end of the season. He was not the same player, played every time with fear. In the tackle, he was not [able] to win back the ball quickly. Also the movement when he turned, his movement was not fast like [it is] now."Reuse content