Jack Wilshere has been pencilled in for his first competitive Arsenal start in 17 months against Reading in the League Cup on October 30, Goal.com has learned.
The midfield starlet will step up his recovery from injury with a run-out in a behind-closed-doors friendly for the Gunners against Chelsea on Wednesday afternoon at their London Colney training headquarters.
It has been specifically arranged to help the 20-year-old's rehabilitation and will be the third appearance of his comeback as club staff get him into shape for a full first-team return at Reading in a fortnight’s time.
However, Arsenal want Wilshere to build up his match fitness and lose some excess weight before he returns to the senior side.
Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong, who are also recovering from long-term injuries, are in line to play in Wednesday’s friendly, which will mainly consist of players from the Under-21 squad.
Arsenal have maintained a cautious approach to the return of Wilshere, who has not played a first-team match since July 31, 2011 owing to ankle, foot and knee problems. His last competitive appearance for his club was against Fulham on the final day of the 2010-11 Premier League season.
After playing 63 minutes in the Under-21 league against West Brom on October 1 and 74 minutes against the Royals a week later, Wilshere has been pencilled in for at least 75 minutes against Chelsea on Wednesday and a full run-out against Everton next Monday.
If the England star emerges unscathed from the next two games, there is a possibility he will be named on the substitute’s bench for the Champions League match against Schalke on Wednesday, October 24, or the Premier League game against QPR the following Saturday.
But Wilshere is earmarked to make his first competitive start for Arsenal in 17 months when the club make the short journey to Reading in the last-16 League Cup tie.
“Jack is not quite ready at the moment,” a source told Goal.com. “He is not quite match fit and is carrying a bit of excess weight.
“He has to prove his fitness before he will be recalled to the first team but Arsenal are not worried about him. He has been throwing himself into tackles and nailed Mikel Arteta in training a few days ago. There is no mental issue, like there was for Aaron Ramsey after his ankle injury.”
Sagna has not featured for Arsenal since breaking a leg against Norwich in May while Frimpong has played only 18 minutes in the League Cup after suffering a knee injury in February on loan at Wolves.
Both players are believed to be closer to first-team returns than Wilshere and, depending upon the state of those on international duty when they are assessed upon their returns to London Colney on Wednesday, could be named in the squad that travels to Norwich on Saturday.
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