We’d best start with the bad news this morning and that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s suffered a ‘little setback’ according to Arsene Wenger and although the manager was obviously trying to play it down a bit, saying he couldn’t put a timeframe on it because Jack has to see consultants, the fear is that this could keep him out for at least 6-8 weeks, if not the rest of the season.
It seems as if he’s got an issue with the same ankle, a stress fracture this time, and felt pain in it again after returning to training. Rightly enough Arsene is refusing to rule out him playing again this season, or even taking part in the European Championships this summer, because every player needs some light at the end of the tunnel and Wilshere is no different. Arsene says:
It’s impossible to play at the end of February. Even if we have some good news, I would say that’s impossible. From day one, when you are completely fit to practice again, to be match fit you count at least six weeks.
And that’s only to return to training, not anywhere near fit enough to play games. Wilshere is ‘gutted’ according to the manager and that’s understandable. Having spent so long out to break down again when the prospect of playing again loomed so close must be hugely frustrating. If it is for fans, imagine how it must be for the player. Quite why it’s happened is hard to say without all the information. According to Arsene yesterday he was back running, felt pain and they immediately stopped him to see what was going on.
If slings and arrows are cast in the way of the medical team it’ll be because this all feels a bit familiar. There’s a touch of Vermaelen’s Achilles to it but it strikes me there’s a wider issue. I’ve seen the medical set-up and the attention to detail – every little detail – is incredible. We are employing highly qualified professionals, not Dr Nick, and while you can certainly point to other examples as evidence I’m convinced our problems are two-fold. 1 – we have players suffering from being played too much and 2 – we just have some really injury prone players.
As big a blow as Wilshere’s injury is, would it as big if we had a fit Diaby or, indeed, a player in the squad instead of Diaby who could play 45 games a season instead of 15? Or 5? Or none so far? Would losing Santos have been such a blow if we had a back-up left back who was fit enough to called upon when needed? And then we come to the squad depth itself. If the manager is reluctant to play certain players then it naturally increases the strain on those who do play. Their recovery time is shorter and they become more susceptible to injury.
For all the talk of getting somebody in to share the burden with Robin van Persie, the need isn’t just for another player who can score goals, it’s to ensure that a player who had really never gone a season injury free isn’t run into the ground by being overplayed when he is fit for a longer spell.
If we look at last season there can be little argument that Wilshere, as good as he is, was overplayed. I understand why Arsene played him so much but maybe the squad should have been stronger so he didn’t have to. Back in May he warned England against picking him saying he was in the now famous ‘red zone’, but the reason he was in there in the first place was because of how much he had played for Arsenal. And the situation wasn’t helped by Jack picking up an injury on that international duty and thinking he could play through it during the early part of our pre-season. Youthful exuberance and a desire to just play football, of course, but it didn’t help.
Wilshere’s setback is unfortunate but maybe we need to look at the overall picture before people get the pitchforks out for the medical team. If you read the medical centre piece you’ll know that sometimes, despite advice given to him, Arsene has to gamble on a player because we need points. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bringing Arsene to Las Vegas would make me a very wealthy man as I did the exact opposite of whatever he did, but that he feels he has to gamble at times is a reflection of his squad, not the medical team.
You can’t have two Cescs, or two van Persies, nor two Wilsheres, but what you can have are players who are of sufficient quality to come in and do their job effectively for a game here and a game there to ensure that your most important players don’t get run into the ground. Most injuries don’t come about from being kicked, those are bruises and the like which can be managed easily, but muscle strains and tears come from playing too much and not getting enough time to rest and recover.
Anyway, let’s keep fingers crossed for Jack, even if it does look as if his contribution this season is going to be absolutely minimal at best. Arsene played down any talk of dipping into the transfer market and with only 3 days until the window closes I’d be hugely surprised if anything happened there. The return of Jack would have eased the burden more on the current midfield trio but it’s not as if he doesn’t have options and it looks as if we need to get more out of what we have.
Coquelin’s return could easily see him shift Arteta into the Ramsey role to give the Welshman a rest. He’s a more naturally attacking player than we’ve seen since his arrival. There’s Rosicky and Benayoun, who should have the experience and quality to contribute more, and at a push he might consider Arshavin in that more forward midfield role but it’d be a big surprise as he’s never been inclined to play him there before. Desperate times though, and all that.
Still, while a new cloud has appeared, so too has a silver lining. As I mentioned, Coquelin is back, providing more depth in midfield and a full back option, while Bacary Sagna could be in the squad for tomorrow’s game. Arteta and Henry will have tests today before Villa but could well be fit and well for the game, while Kieran Gibbs is set to return to full training too. At least there’s some good news on the injury front.
Finally for today, a quick book update: issues are all resolved, you will be able to purchase So Paddy Got Up from Monday lunchtime. Keep an eye on the site for more details then.
Right, that’ll do for this morning, back tomorrow with a full preview of the FA Cup game. Till then.