it’s a bank holiday here so really I should be in bed having a lie-in but such is the dedication to the cause – added to the fact I forgot to turn off my alarm – I’m up and about as if it were some kind of normal day.
I do like this time of year, the games are plentiful and obviously our participation in the Capital One Cup this week will add to that schedule. We’ll look ahead to it properly tomorrow but with injuries and so forth the manager may well have to go further down the list of youngsters than he might like.
While I’d expect some senior players to be involved – like Jenkinson, Walcott, Coquelin, Djourou, Koscielny, Arshavin, Frimpong and, possibly even Chamakh, there’s got to be room for the next generation. That’s what this tournament has been about, blooding new players, and we could see Eisfeld, Gnabry, Angha, Yennaris and others in the squad. As I said, we’ll have a proper look at it tomorrow when we’re likely to know a bit more about the players who will go to Reading.
In the meantime, as the euphoria dies down after that epic, scintillating victory over QPR, some of the focus returns to Jack Wilshere who made his long-awaited comeback in that game. As you’d imagine, Jack himself was thrilled to be back and highlighted the length of his absence by talking about who he was playing with now:
“Last time I played it was with Fabregas and Nasri – now it’s with Arteta and Cazorla. It’s like a new team and it’s a new me.
“Words cannot describe it. I was just running around smiling. I have to thank all the medical staff, Declan and Colin Lewin. When you go to the training ground day after day there are times when you don’t want to do it, especially when you see all the boys go out to training. But it’s great now to be back and hopefully I can push on from here.”
If you saw his post-match interview on Match of the Day (which you can see the video page) you might have noticed a more mature Jack Wilshere than previously. Of course that has to do with the passage of time and the fact he’s still a young man, but I suspect this injury and how long he’s spent out of the game has been a sobering experience. To be denied the chance to do what you love doing, and to go through some periods when you think it might never end, must be extremely difficult and thus alter your outlook.
The manager was going to play him in tomorrow night’s game but has since said that’s out of the question, and understandably so. He gives our midfield something extra, something we might well need going into next weekend’s game against Man Utd, and as much as we’d like him to get match fit as quickly as possible we’re going to have take it relatively easy with him.
Jack himself said he was cramping up after an hour or so, it doesn’t take much for cramp to become a muscle strain or tear and that’s the reality we face. He won’t get properly fit without playing games but he simply can’t be chucked back into a three game a week schedule at this point. Which is probably why AW is urging Roy Hodgson not to pick him for England’s upcoming friendly next month. He says:
“Jack should skip that. What is important now is that he gets back to full fitness for this team. Once he is back he will play for England again.
“I will speak about it with Roy, but what is important now is that he gets back to his level.”
You would hope that common sense would apply – a friendly against Sweden will tell Hodgson nothing he doesn’t already know about Jack Wilshere. The bottom line is that if he’s over-worked too early it could backfire and while Hodgson can go off and not worry about anything, as England don’t play again until next year, the real losers will be Arsenal but more importantly Wilshere who will face the frustration of an absence he didn’t have to suffer.
Still, that’s us being scared of being without him as much as anything else, because what was obvious on Saturday was his quality. Despite the lack of real fitness, despite the fact he hasn’t really kicked a ball in anger for over a year, he didn’t look out of place at all. He kept it simple, there were encouraging signs when you consider how well he dovetailed with players he hasn’t played with before. He combined with Arteta and Cazorla a total of 28 times during the game, and the fact that 18 of his 44 passes went to the full backs shows his ability to move the play, rather than get bogged down in the middle as we tend to do at times, will become increasingly important.
The game against United on Saturday is going to be one of huge intensity – even if we ignore the sideshow that is van Quisling – and one in which we’ll need our best players. Even at 85-90% Wilshere stands out in the Arsenal midfield, he’s got to play. It’ll be a huge test for him but like withstanding some of the heavy challenges inflicted by QPR it’s part and parcel of the game and he’s got to go through matches like this to get to 100%.
No doubt this is something that’ll crop up again as the week goes on, for now though, I bid you a bank holiday ‘good day’, back with a preview of the Reading game tomorrow.