Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has tipped Jack Wilshere to become the England captain in the future but warned that it is too early to consider him as Steven Gerrard's permanent successor.
In the absence of regular incumbent Thomas Vermaelen because of injury, Wilshere could become Arsenal's youngest-ever captain in tomorrow afternoon's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Brighton & Hove Albion, beating Tony Adams' record of 21 years and 82 days by two months. He took over the armband when Vermaelen went off injured in the 5-1 thrashing of West Ham United on Wednesday. Regular deputy Mikel Arteta is still also sidelined.
Wenger this afternoon refused to confirm that Wilshere will step in but admitted the midfielder has all the attributes to captain his country one day.
"Let's not go too quick," he said. "The potential is there of course. But I'm not national-team coach – you should ask that question to Roy Hodgson, who will be happy to talk about it. In the national team you have a massive pressure straight away. It's important that the player gets to the stage where he develops first completely into an accomplished football player and then takes responsibility to take care of other people."
"He is naturally a guy who is not scared of anything on the football pitch and that is usually the sign of a leader," Wenger said of Wilshere. "If you are asking me if I will take the captaincy away from Vermaelen, no. It is not a question that holds me at the moment. But do I think Jack will be captain of this club one day – yes, of course."
Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky return for Arsenal to face Brighton in a competition that offers them their only realistic chance of a trophy this season. Although Wenger insisted they still have a good chance of progressing past Bayern Munich in next month's Champions League last-16 tie, the Frenchman is well aware that the FA Cup is a more likely target. "It is important because people will look at us, how we respond to a challenge like the FA Cup," he said.