Many of the Arsenal faithful could be let off for forgetting that Jack Wilshere has just passed two months of his latest injury spell. A rapid rise to the pinnacle of the Premier League, an array of midfield talent and a receding need for a diminutive playmaker have all but left Jack Wilshere redundant for the North London club, who once before lamented the youngster’s time on the side-line. Before, days were counted. Will he be fit? Can he start? Now, it is barely an issue.
His stock has radically decreased, and it is not only the injuries that are the root of this; inefficiency in the creator role, a lack of end product and a perceived poor attitude have the Gunners fans questioning the Englishman’s future with the club. His impending return to fitness and to first-team training will bring a lot of awkward questions to the fore, ones that will divide the Arsenal fan base. Is his time up? Should they cut their losses? It is a tough question, but one that I have an opinion on and I have reason to believe it is the right one.
Life as an injury-prone footballer must be one of great difficulty, patience and perseverance. Especially at a club like Arsenal, for obvious reasons. For Jack Wilshere, time spent in the injury room, in the gym and doing gruelling exercises will probably come first hand now, and since 2012 injuries are undoubtedly expected, accepted and remembered with a certain unkindness. This one is different though. Why? With every other injury he has suffered, every Arsenal fan has pined for his return with Wilshere pretty much assured a place in the starting eleven – albeit sometimes on the wing – Wenger’s method to speed up a player’s feel for possession.
This time however, while he is in the gym working to return power to his depleted and irregular left leg, he has seen highlights of Mesut Ozil creating goals, Santi Cazorla providing the link between defence to attack and Francis Coquelin giving the bite to the team that Wilshere once gave. Now, the battle is not to get into the first team. It is to compete with other injured colleagues, such as Aaron Ramsey, to claim that spot on the bench. This is it for Wilshere. Make or break, the ‘clutch’ moment. This moment of competitiveness will be new to him, and will define him for the rest of his career. Will he stand strong in the face of it and chisel a new player to endear to the Emirates or could this be the last time he returns from the Arsenal physio’s office?
I believe he will grow into a better player from this experience. I’ve seen him be the beacon of light in some of Arsenal’s darkest moments over the last decade, so while this will be new, to fight just to get on the bench, I believe having been on the grandest stage, he will take this in his stride.
Do I think he has a future with Arsenal? Immediately, yes, as he can provide adept cover for the current midfielders. As for the long term, what can be assured is that Wilshere will get an opportunity. He needs to grasp it, as he may only get one more. He needs to make sure that in these next two-three weeks he does everything he can to be prepared to take that chance with his eyes wide open.