Jack Wilshere has publicly expressed his desire to play for the England Under-21s in the European Championship in Denmark in the summer, a selection that would place serious strain on relations between his club, Arsenal, and the national set-up.
The Football Association has made it clear it will back its Under-21s coach, Stuart Pearce, if, as expected, he picks the three eligible players currently in Fabio Capello's senior squad – Wilshere, Andy Carroll and Kyle Walker – for the tournament in June but has yet to open dialogue with any of the trio's club managers on the subject. Those talks, which are still to be scheduled, will be awkward at best with Arsène Wenger having already warned against "overloading" the likes of Wilshere with more matches rather than allowing him a summer to rest after his first full campaign with Arsenal and England.
Yet the 19-year-old is keen to feature in the finals, in which England will confront Spain in Herning eight days after the senior side play Switzerland at Wembley in their final Euro 2012 qualifier of the season. Asked about his potential involvement in the junior tournament, Wilshere said: "It is international football and I want to play in any international football. It's up to Stuart Pearce and Fabio Capello. They will talk and see what's best for me. I always speak to the manager at Arsenal, too, and I will again. I am sure Stuart Pearce and Fabio Capello will talk to him as well."
Should Wilshere feature in all of his club side's remaining Premier League fixtures, together with the qualifier against the Swiss, he will end his first full campaign having played 53 senior matches. "He is playing a lot of games," said Capello. "He is a really important player for Arsenal and now he is very important for us. Also for the Under-21s. The European Under-21s is an important tournament and [his selection] is a decision for Stuart Pearce and the manager of Arsenal."
Asked whether it was his job to protect Wilshere, who made his first competitive start for England against Wales on Saturday, Capello said: "It isn't my job. It is the job of the FA, of England, because the Under-21s are important. I haven't got exclusivity on Wilshere. These three players – Wilshere, Walker and Carroll – are important for the future of England. I know that one Barcelona player, who is in the Spain first XI, has said he wants to play in the Under-21s this summer. A big player. He wants to play in that tournament. But this is a question between Wilshere, his manager and Stuart Pearce."
That player is understood to be Sergio Busquets, now 22 but still eligible for the finals in Denmark. The World Cup‑winning midfielder expressed a willingness to be involved last August – "If you can't do it when you're 22 and in good physical shape, you will never be able to do it" – with Barcelona apparently content to let him feature for the junior side. In a similar vein Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira both helped Germany win the Under-21 championship in 2009, beating England in the final, with their involvement later considered to have been key to their smooth integration into Joachim Löw's senior side.
The FA would have preferred Pearce to have opened a dialogue with Wenger, Kenny Dalglish and Harry Redknapp before publicly commenting that he intends to "make sure the best players compete for England this summer", though it will back the coach's decision. Wenger's wariness is born of a belief that a player should not feature in both junior and senior set-ups at the same time, as well as by the dangers of burn-out, with the Arsenal manager having objected to Theo Walcott's inclusion with the under‑21s in 2009 after the winger had already made his mark in Capello's first-team squad. Walcott subsequently suffered an injury in pre-season after a busy summer, nullifying the impact he could make back with his club side.
Capello has moved to placate some of the clubs still involved in the Champions League by releasing six of his squad after the 2-0 qualifier win against Wales. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will miss the friendly against Ghana on Tuesday having returned to Chelsea, with Wayne Rooney and Michael Dawson released back to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Walker returned to Aston Villa, where he is on loan from Spurs, on Sundayto undergo treatment on slight groin and foot problems.
Phil Jagielka or Gareth Barry is expected to start the game as captain in Terry's absence, with Capello suggesting he will field a completely different side to that which started in Cardiff. "I will make 11 changes to respect the clubs, 100%. I want to look at different players." The Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Matt Jarvis should make his international debut at some point against Ghana with Carroll, deemed not fit enough to play 90 minutes on Saturday after a recent thigh problem, to earn a second cap.
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