Arsene Wenger has revealed that, given his present rate of recovery, midfielder Jack Wilshere could be back on the pitch this season.
It was feared that he would not make it back to the Emirates until next season after suffering a fracture of the ankle, but Wenger has inspired hope among Arsenal and England fans by suggesting that he may return to the pitch far soone than expecting.
"He is not back training with the squad yet but he is back with the ball and that is a huge step because the work we do with the ball is quite demanding," said the Arsenal manager. "Now we can say that if all goes well, then in three weeks he can be back in full training with the squad and then it will take another two weeks to get fully fit.
"I think he will play this season if he has no setback. The last scan was positive so he should be capable of playing."
Wilshere has not been in action since England's game against Switzerland last June, but if he is match fit soon then Wenger believes that he could make his way to the Euro tournament for the national squad.
However, he also stated that he believes that if Wilshere does not feature in an Arsenal match this season then he should likewise not feature in an England match, saying: "I will intervene if I believe medically he is at risk. If he has played some games before the end of the season for us, then it is a possibility. If he has not played before the end of the season, then I don't think it is realistic.
"The next three weeks will decide how he progresses. We have gone for a very cautious attitude with him – I will not force him into training with any pain so we might have to be slower than expected. I say three weeks to go back to full training with the squad but that is not sure. It all depends on how well he develops." Wenger also stated that he would rather Wilshere opt for Euro 2012 than the Olympic games on the international level, as the timing of the Olympics would "destroy" the start of Arsenals season.
Arsenal are set to host Aston Villa today (March 24). Bookmaker Paddy Power has set the odds of them defeating Villa 2-1 are 7/1.