Arsenal v Southampton: Jack Wilshere will be 'used when needed', says Arsene Wenger

The Arsenal manager is wary of aggravating the England midfielder's ankle

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows he will have to tread carefully with Jack Wilshere if the England midfielder is to last the distance for club and country this season.

The 21-year-old featured heavily in each of England's internationals at Wembley this week and last, where Roy Hodgson's men suffered back-to-back defeats.

Wenger played down any talk of a row with the Football Association of how Wilshere was deployed by Hodgson. However, the Gunners boss remains acutely aware of the need to avoid burn-out with Wilshere, who was ruled out of contention for both Euro 2012 and the London Olympics later the same summer because of injury.

"We play 60 games per year and Jack will certainly have to be managed - unless his pains go completely, then he will be used when needed," said Wenger, who will have forward Theo Walcott available again following a two-month injury absence when Barclays Premier League action resumes with the visit of Southampton on Saturday.

"If there is an alert on his ankles, we will of course take advice from the medical department and use him when he can really be used."

Wenger continued: "I have been told by the medical team that there is no concern in the long term. He is just still recovering from his inflammation."

There had been reports Arsenal were at loggerheads with the FA over Hodgson's decision to use Wilshere, who came off the bench against Germany, twice over the international break.

Wenger, though, said: "There is no problem between the FA and Arsenal Football Club. I don't know where that idea comes from because he was supposed to play.

"He was available for England, they used him like they wanted and if he had played the two games I would have been perfectly happy.

"Two full games - there was no restriction there at all."

Wenger also confirmed England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who also harbours hopes to go to the World Cup, remains on course to return from his knee injury at the start of 2014.

"I believe he is still at least one month away from competition but he has had no real setback," said Wenger.

"So the new year is a reasonable target."

Defender Per Mertesacker scored the winning goal to beat England 1-0 at Wembley on Tuesday.

Wenger confirmed preliminary talks over a new deal for the popular 6ft 6in centre-back had begun.

"We are in the process of talking, yes," he said.

"He has one and a half years to go, so that is a long time."

Arsenal will be without suspended midfielder Mathieu Flamini against the Saints, who have surprised with their rise up the table this season.

Mauricio Pochettino feels his men could stay the course and gatecrash the top four come May.

Wenger said: "You cannot rule anybody out. If they can keep the defensive record they have then they can be very ambitious.

"All the teams want to press and to win the ball back quickly - there's nothing special in there, but (Southampton) do it well and that is why they are efficient defensively."

PA

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