Arsene Wenger has long detested the use of his players in meaningless international friendlies. The most recent target of the Frenchman’s ire was Belgium’s decision to play Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen – who was dealing with an ankle injury – for 90 minutes in a friendly against Greece in late February.
It’s possible Wenger recalled the England-Switzerland friendly in June of 2011 that cost Arsenal the services of one of their best players – one Jack Wilshere. The 20 year-old Englishman suffered a stress fracture to his ankle, an injury that worsened during a pre-season match against the New York Red Bulls in July – why the Arsenal medical staff cleared him for that game remains a mystery to me. On September 26th Wilshere finally underwent surgery to repair his ankle. The assessment at the time called for four to five months of recovery before he would be fit to play.
In January we learned Wilshere had suffered a setback. What made the situation that much worse was news that the midfielder had stunned the team’s medical staff with his progress just weeks earlier. The injury would rule him out of the club’s remaining Champions League clashes. Though the news was troubling there was still hope Wilshere could return for Arsenal’s final league fixtures, England’s Euro 2012 campaign and possibly appear for Great Britain at the Olympics.
Those dreams were dashed on April 17th when Wilshere suffered another set back that ruled him out of everything outside of playing video games and tweeting like a fiend. The air of positivity that had surrounded previous diagnoses began to dissipate. In an interview with the BBC in late April, Wenger revealed the mindset of both Wilshere and the club heading in to the next round of rehab:
“When we start pre-season training on 9 July, if he can join in, then we have won the battle, but that is not guaranteed. You get the first knock, but think: ‘OK, at least I will be ready for the Euros.’ Then you have to convince him: ‘Look my friend, it will not work for the Euros.’ You knock him down again. Then you set him another target – the Olympics. But if he doesn’t make it, he will lose a complete appetite for rehab because it’s difficult. Let’s take our time and not set any specific targets. The most important thing for him is to focus on day-to-day work and see if he can get better.”
Yesterday Arsenal revealed Wilshere will travel to Sweden for a minor operation on his left knee – not the ankle he had been rehabbing. The club stated the midfielder would then start a personalized fitness program that would have him ready for next season.
It would be foolish to call a 20 year-old injury prone, but the last year has delivered round after round of bad news regarding Wilshere’s recovery. After an eye opening performance during Arsenal’s Champions league run in the 2010/11 season many believed he would more than adequately fill the void created by the departure of Cesc Fabregas. Instead Arsenal supporters are left wondering if his career will follow the path of Abou Diaby.
For a club – and country – in dire need of a of a box to box pit bull in the middle of the pitch, Wilshere’s ability to overcome his physical issues will be closely watched. Gooner or not, it would be devastating to see such a promising career derailed by injury.
Good luck in Sweden Jack.