Fit-again Wilshere a risk worth taking for Hodgson


Perhaps the most pleasing element of England's 2-1 friendly win over Turkey for manager Roy Hodgson was Jack Wilshere coming through 65 minutes unscathed.

The Arsenal midfielder - notoriously plagued by injuries over the past few years - missed almost all of 2015-16 with a fractured leg. He returned in time to feature in the Gunners' final three Premier League games, playing 69 minutes of their season-ending 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

Hodgson holds Wilshere in high regard, that much is evident, with the manager stating both he and Jordan Henderson will be given as much time as possible to prove their fitness for Euro 2016.

The squad, currently at 26 players, has to be cut down to 23 by the end of the month, with England facing Australia at the Stadium of Light on Friday before Hodgson is forced to make a decision.

Some have doubted the wisdom of including Wilshere, viewing his history of fitness problems as too great a risk, should he break down again once the finals in France come around.

But on this evidence, Hodgson need not be worried. 

A peripheral figure during the opening exchanges, Wilshere grew into the game, looked in rude health and was lively - fresh, one would suggest - from playing just 141 minutes of Premier League football this season.

With Eric Dier patrolling in front of the back four, Wilshere was afforded a more advanced role in a 4-3-3. That gave him licence to streak forward and join counter-attacks whenever England broke, although he was often left frustrated by his team-mates' wastefulness when he did so.

Should Wilshere start for England at the Euros, it is likely to be alongside Dier in front of the defence, with the return of captain Wayne Rooney set to see Hodgson revert to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

But Sunday's game at the Etihad Stadium was a reminder of Wilshere's abilities further up field.

Dier provided the defensive solidity against Turkey, while his Tottenham team-mate Dele Alli embarked on a couple of trademark surging runs. 

At his best, Wilshere can provide a combination of both.

A jinking run on the right flank ended in a low shot saved at the near post midway through the first half as Wilshere displayed his excellent close control. There was a moment of concern when he was the victim of a scything challenge from Caner Erkin nine minutes before the interval, but Wilshere was quickly back on his feet and in the action again.

There were signs of the underlying competitive edge to his game with a cynical trip on Volkan Sen which earned him a booking in the 57th minute, before he was replaced as Hodgson sought to give Henderson some much-needed game time following a knee injury.

Wilshere told ITV after the match: "I feel good, I feel I'm 100 per cent. 

I've been training for seven or eight weeks, played a few games but not played 90 minutes yet but I'm looking to improve. I feel better and I'm hoping to continue."

With Dier seemingly a first choice in one of the two holding midfield roles, Henderson and Danny Drinkwater appear Wilshere's main rivals for a starting berth in France. The Leicester City man was given only 20 minutes to press his case here, and did nothing to suggest he would be out of place at a major international tournament.

But Wilshere's natural ability to link midfield and attack - shown in glimpses here - could prove the difference, and another injury-free run out in Sunderland on Friday could lead Hodgson to decide the Arsenal man's inclusion is a risk worth taking.