The Liverpool striker Andy Carroll is to be left out of Stuart Pearce's England Under-21s squad for the European Championship next month, adding further fuel to Arsène Wenger's indignation that his 19-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere will be selected.
It emerged last night that Pearce has decided against taking Carroll, with whom he has had a testy relationship in the past. Not only does the England camp believe that Carroll lacks fitness for the tournament in Denmark but, unlike Wilshere, they do not believe he is committed to the Under-21s cause.
The announcement of the final 23-man party was delayed again yesterday following a meeting of the Club England board at Wembley and will now take place on Monday, when Fabio Capello announces his senior squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland on 4 June.
Earlier yesterday Wenger said that there would be "no logic" in resting Carroll for next month while including Wilshere. Pearce is thought likely to exclude Carroll from his 23-man squad on grounds of fatigue. Wenger said that, given that Wilshere had played 49 club games this season and Carroll 29, there was no basis for resting one and not the other.
"It's quite surprising," he said. "If you look at the number of games Carroll played and Wilshere played, I could understand that Carroll doesn't go for some injury problems. For fatigue problems, it will be more difficult to convince people in England that he is more tired than Jack Wilshere."
Wenger predicted that the double standards apparent in resting Carroll but not Wilshere would cause problems for Pearce. "He will be concerned, Pearce, to leave Carroll behind," the Arsenal manager said. "I don't think he will do it because he knows that's opening the door for many other complaints behind that. Because the players as well they react like that: 'If he doesn't go, why do I go?' So I think that could be a dangerous game to leave Carroll behind, because it could create many other problems."
Asked whether he would complain to the Football Association, Wenger said he would more probably be bemused at the decision. "I would be maybe not first on the phone," he said, "but I would think there's no logic in the attitude of selection."
Under Fifa rules there is nothing Arsenal can do to prevent Wilshere's participation after his selection by the FA. Wenger repeated his belief, though, that a summer tournament was not the best way to follow the midfielder's first full season, in which he has played so many games. "We have to accept and respect the choice, even if I think it is the wrong decision," he said. "Jack Wilshere is in the red for a while now and this can be a risk for his health. He knows that he is nearly at the end of his energy level but he is keen to do well. He has played nearly 50 games this year. To go to a tournament for me is a massive risk."
Wenger has had no assurances on the extent of Wilshere's involvement, although he said that "you have to leave the freedom to the manager". He repeated his warning to England that playing for the Under-21s would preclude Wilshere's playing for the seniors against the Netherlands in August. "They know that he will not be available for the friendly," he said. "I want to give him the needed rest after that. I will give him four weeks' rest after the end of the tournament. They go out, and he comes back one month later. So if they go out on 21 June, so he will come back on 21 July." The tournament, in Denmark, ends on 25 June.
Wilshere will need "at least three weeks' preparation" dating from his return to training before he can play first-team football. Should he start pre-season on Monday 25 July his three weeks of pre-season would end on 15 August. The Premier League begins on 13 August, and Wenger said Wilshere's participation then was "very unlikely". England play the Netherlands on 10 August. One week later is the Champions League play-off, in which Arsenal will have to compete should they finish fourth in the Premier League.
The examples of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas give Wenger more reason to be cautious with Wilshere. Both played in the World Cup final last summer and have had their subsequent seasons curtailed by injury. "It is not a coincidence that the two players played less games than what we expected were both in the final of the World Cup," Wenger said. "Both of them have had problems physically to adjust to the season."