Return of the Jack

Good morning to you and welcome to Thursday. The week is flying by. Must be all the high jinks and fun. Can’t think what else it would be.

Let’s start this morning with Jack Wilshere. Apparently he’s ‘stunned’ doctors by being ready to make his comeback … erm … pretty much on schedule. When he limped out of the Emirates Cup in late July there was no indication he’d be out this long but since the need for surgery we’ve been told he’d be back in full training by the end of January, ready for a mid-February comeback.

And while I think we can all laugh at this, he is the very essence of LANS. He adds a body to an area of the pitch where we badly need one. It’s hard not to think that Mikel Arteta’s calf injury, which threatens to keep him out of Sunday’s game against Man United, isn’t a consequence of how much football he’s played since joining us. He’s played nearly every game since his deadline day arrival and as we talk about a squad in which the manager has little faith in some players, this is another example of why it’s important to have real depth.

Similarly, Aaron Ramsey has been overplayed. You can’t ever fault his effort or workrate but he’s run himself into a place where his form is off and the best thing for him might be a game or two on the sidelines. Again the manager’s reluctance/inability to rotate means he’s played games when maybe he shouldn’t have.

Wilshere’s return, however, changes that. Our midfield trio is quite versatile. Song performs the primary defensive role but when he goes forward Arteta is more than capable of covering. His maturity and discipline means that he’s aware of what he needs to do if Song does make his way into the final third. Wilshere, last season, was groomed in a more defensive role. Arsenal were playing with Song and Wilshere anchoring the midfield, taking it in turns to support the more forward placed midfielder (Cesc), and Arsene said this was to educate Jack, to make him aware of all the facets of midfield play.

His return now allows for a midfield system which has worked well with Song, Arteta and Ramsey, to be a little more versatile. In his younger days Jack was a much more forward thinking player, someone with finishing ability and creativity. We know he’s got an eye for a pass in the box and like Cesc who had a similar transition from being a youngster who scored a lot to a senior player who scored a lot, there was something of a ‘dry spell’ as he adapted his game to the more advanced level.

Now, Arteta, since joining, has been asked to play in a way which wasn’t quite how he played at Everton. There he had more freedom, there was more creative responsibility on him and he looked to get forward much more than he has done for us. I still don’t quite understand why people can’t see what an important role he’s played for us this season. I genuinely dread to think where we’d be without him and our worst possession stats of the season came against Swansea when he was missing. I don’t think that’s coincidence.

The main point though is that Wilshere’s return makes it an incredibly fluid midfield trio. At the moment Ramsey’s position is quite defined. While Arteta can cover Song, and Song can move into Arteta’s space, Ramsey’s game doesn’t really allow him to cover either of them. Wilshere can play in the defensive role, he can anchor and keep possession in the centre of the midfield and allow Arteta to go forward, and he can play in the more advanced role too which is where I think he’ll play on a more permanent basis in the future.

And look, we can laugh at LANS all we want, but we’ll have a player of considerable quality who is going to be pre-season fresh. He won’t be jaded, physically or mentally, from playing games. He’ll have real hunger and desire having missed so much football and that can only be a good thing for the team. Obviously having been injured there’s a risk of picking up those niggly injuries that so often accompany a comeback, but hopefully all the conditioning and fitness work he’s doing now will prevent that.

The Guardian piece makes a very good point though about Wilshere’s desire to play overriding common sense. I suspect it was that desire which allowed him to play through the pain of the injury which has kept him out since summer and hopefully there’s a realisation on his part that full disclosure is going to be so important from now on. It’s hard to miss any game but it’s far better to miss one or two and have a knock properly treated than end up spending 6 months on the sidelines.

Still, while his return, and that of Sagna also, are things to look forward to, we’ve got to keep ourselves going until then and make sure that when they do come back they’ve still got plenty to play for this season. That starts on Sunday against United and we’ll have more on that game in the days to come.

In other news Marouane Chamakh says he’s staying at Arsenal after the African Cup of Nations and that he hopes to recreate some of the early form he showed for the club. Whatever you think about him and his ability as a player, if we’re not going to sign another forward in this transfer window, you have to hope that he can do what he says because that kind of contribution would be very valuable indeed. If he’s going to be an Arsenal player till the summer at least, let’s hope he can rediscover some modicum of form.

There’s also some talk of Tomas Rosicky being a £3m target for Fulham (unlikely) while Andrei Arshavin is set to rejoin Zenit St Petersburg in the summer according to The Star (more likely that joining Lazio in January, anyway).

Finally, for those emailing about the book – Paypal are still being all John Terry about things. In fact, they’re being John Terry crossed with Phil Collins crossed with a dolphin (water Sheringham) crossed with Pepe crossed with bacon that has that shiny rainbowy sheen on it. It’s in their hands and as soon as I have it sorted I’ll announce it on here. In the meantime, why not have a read of this review of it by Goonerboy.

Right, that’s yer lot. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast and what have you. Till then.

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