Arsene Wenger is set for a dispute with the Football Association after saying that plans to have Jack Wilshere play for England in next summer's European Under-21s Championship "will not work". The FA's director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, announced on Tuesday that England wanted to take the "strongest possible team" to the tournament in Denmark in June. This would extend to the inclusion of eligible youngsters with full international caps, such as Wilshere.
The Arsenal manager, however, is reluctant to see his young midfielder representing both the senior team and the Under-21s. "The problem is," Wenger said, "the English FA have to decide: is the player in the first-team or in the Under-21s?"
He doubted the effectiveness of players with senior caps returning to play for the Under-21s, because they did not tend to reproduce their best form. "Personally, I don't believe ever a player performs when he has been in a top team and comes back down to the Under-21s. I've never seen it, so, it is always a bad decision."
"When a player plays under his normal real level he is never good," Wenger added. "When you put a player down two divisions, you would be disappointed by him because it is a low mental key, and, for him, he has to adapt to a different game, and he will be lost."
Wenger is worried that Wilshere's increasingly prominent role with Arsenal would make it unwise for him to extend his season into June. "We have to sit down at the end of the season and see how many games Wilshere has played, before considering that he plays in the Under-21s," he said. "That the boy wants to play, I find that positive. But that he is now playing with the first team until June and then playing in the Under-21s, that will not work."
Wilshere has already started 19 games for Arsenal and Wenger argued that if this involvement continues he would need an extended break. "At 18 years of age, you have to be conscious as well, that every time he plays when he goes in the fight he has to put 200 per cent in to win the ball. So, when a guy like him has played 40 games in the season he needs a rest."
The dispute comes after Brooking announced that players with senior experience would still be considered for the Under-21 squad. "We would like to try and get as strong a side as possible for that tournament," he said. This grows out of a desire for young English players to develop experience not only of playing international tournaments but also of succeeding in them. While Brooking conceded that the participation of Theo Walcott, who has been to a World Cup, was "up for discussion", he was keen to have other young players involved. "When you're a young player you should play when the opportunity is there."
An England midfielder at the opposite end of his career, David Beckham, will not be joining Arsenal, despite Wenger's admitting that he "loves" the former Manchester United man. "I love David Beckham and when he was here he was a fantastic example on the professional side. He was the first in and the last out.
"Of course I would consider signing Beckham but it's in an area where we do not need players. We have Walcott, [Samir] Nasri, [Tomas] Rosicky, [Andrei] Arshavin, [Carlos] Vela, [Emmanuel] Eboué who can play on the flanks. I cannot sign anybody in January in the department where he plays."