LONDON • Jack Wilshere could be out of action until February after failing to recover as quickly as expected from the fractured fibula which has kept him out of action this season.
The Arsenal midfielder was expected to be ready for selection at this time after undergoing surgery to rectify the problem.
Wilshere, who suffered the injury during training ahead of the new season, had a metal plate inserted into his left fibula in September, with the club expecting him to return within three months.
But Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, says he remains uncertain as to when Wilshere will be available.
"He will not be back before February, that's for sure," Wenger said.
"I said February but honestly I don't know. I let him do his recovery. It's going slowly.
"Once he goes again, goes outside to train, once he is back again into sharp, hard work physically, you count five or six weeks, so at the moment he is not there yet."
Wilshere, who will be 24 on Friday, was given assurances over his England future last week by Roy Hodgson with the European Championship finals taking place in June.
But his slow progress means he is not only facing a challenge to force his way back into the Arsenal set-up but also into the national team.
Wilshere's absence has coincided with the impressive rise of Dele Alli, the Tottenham midfielder, who scored his first international goal in the 2-0 victory over France last month.
Wilshere, who missed six months of last season with an ankle injury before returning to help Arsenal finish third in the league and win the FA Cup, is hugely admired by Hodgson.
But a career which has been ravaged by injury has meant that opportunities to showcase his undoubted talent have been few and far between.
THE TIMES, LONDON