Wilshere has to play regularly - Southgate downplays Arsenal midfielder's World Cup hopes

Getty Images

Gareth Southgate has told Jack Wilshere he must be playing regularly at club level to be considered for England's World Cup squad.

With England lacking a midfielder who can unpick deep-lying defences in the absence of injured Liverpool playmaker Adam Lallana, 25-year-old Wilshere has been suggested as a possible solution.

The Arsenal midfielder is yet to feature in the Premier League this season but has insisted his fitness levels "are probably the best they've ever been" after recovering from a broken leg sustained playing on loan at Bournemouth last season.

But Southgate said Wilshere, who last played for England in a shock loss to Iceland at Euro 2016 after being selected by Roy Hodgson despite a lack of fitness, must get minutes for Arsenal to earn a place in his squad.

"Everyone knows the quality Jack has," said Southgate, who has named players including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jesse Lingard in his current squad despite their lack of regular game-time in the Premier League.

"But he's got to be playing regularly. He has the quality to play at highest level."

England have already guaranteed their place at Russia 2018 after beating Slovenia 1-0 at Wembley on Thursday thanks to an injury-time strike from temporary captain Harry Kane.

Dele Alli is available for Sunday's away game in Lithuania after serving a one-match ban for an offensive gesture made in the victory over Slovakia and Southgate confirmed he will tweak his team, with Jack Butland set to replace Joe Hart in goal and Harry Winks in line to make his international debut.

"[Butland] has been patient for his opportunity, his form has been good. It's a good opportunity for Jack," Southgate said.

"We've got great competition for places. Joe was excellent the other night. We've got other good goalkeepers.

"For sure we'll make changes. The game is slightly different on an artificial pitch - we want to play players that can handle the ball."

Kane wore the armband for the win against Slovenia but Southgate is still refusing to confirm whether the Tottenham striker will be made the permanent captain, succeeding Wayne Rooney in the role.

"I'm getting more stubborn over it," Southgate said. "I'll make a decision when I'm ready."