Wenger happy after ‘ideal’ first Wilshere start in 493 days

Matt Stead

Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere gained both confidence and fitness following an impressive showing in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup third-round win over Doncaster.

Wilshere made his first start for the Gunners in 493 days and was their best player as Theo Walcott scored the only goal in a dominant 1-0 win for the the Premier League side.

Doncaster held their own for much of the contest and hit the bar late on but were largely on the back-foot, with Wilshere often pulling the strings.

Following a string of injury problems and a loan spell at Bournemouth, this was Wilshere’s first time in Wenger’s starting line-up for 16 months and the Frenchman was suitably impressed.

“I wanted to leave him on to give him 90 minutes and overall I think it was an ideal game for him tonight to gain confidence and fitness,” he said.

“We’ll see after that how he will respond, normally he’s alright after the game.

“I think you have to put this game into perspective as well – it has not exactly the intensity of a Premier League game, but it’s important for him to build him up gradually.”

Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker was also pleased to see Wilshere back and praised the bravery of the England international.

“It was very good to have him back out there,” he said.

“You can see that he’s getting more comfortable with his position now. He’s brave now and he trusts his body. That’s the most important thing, that he’s capable of playing 90 minutes.”