Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return from injury on Monday night against Hull City, finally returning to the Arsenal fold after almost six months on the sidelines.
However, it’s hard to argue that he’s been missed, considering Arsenal’s recent form, which has seen to Gunners claim 28 out of a possible 30 Premier League points.
For Gunners fans there will be the obvious relief to have a key squad player back in contention, but there will also be an underlying hope that Wilshere can finally put his injury woes behind him.
Wilshere has had to deal with fitness problems 20 times over the past four years, spending between one week and six months in the recovery room for each.
Hopes that Wilshere had actually learned from his littered past were dashed on Monday as quickly as you can say ‘ankle surgery’.
As shown above, within minutes of coming on at the KC Stadium, Wilshere was typically racing past three players before getting an almighty thwack, from Michael Dawson on this occasion. Observe him electing to knock the ball past the player and take the full force of a stampeding challenge, instead of attempting to at least brace himself for impact and protect his already fibreglass ankles.
It’s typical Wilshere. Using a style of play that is akin to repeatedly punching yourself in the face. It hurts. And it’s obvious what’s causing it. He can stop it, yet he keeps doing it.
Perhaps he wants to be the first footballer to have completely mechanical ankles, a T-1000 of the midfield? Given his penchant for a scrap, it would perhaps help if he could actually back up his tempestuous attitude with a bit of robotic muscle.
Or maybe it’s just that Wilshere has never been told to reel it in? You sense he badly needs to if he actually wants to be able to walk by the time he’s 40.
The tackle above by Paddy McNair, which occurred in November’s Premier League match with Manchester United, is the stereotypical ‘Wilshere-foul’.
The Arsenal man usually starts a delightful burst with the ball, dodging challenges, displaying incredible close control on a mazy run, but, at some point, Wilshere either bites off more than he can chew and is dispossessed, or, to avoid an incoming challenge, Jack taps the ball ahead of him to win a free kick, thus taking the full force of the foul.
On one level, you have to admire Wilshere’s British bull-dog intensity, clearly a wonderful asset to have and one of the key reasons he was such a revelation when he burst onto the scene in 2010/11 and THAT game against Barcelona.
But the problem with this kind of brave approach is that, after five years, Wilshere’s ankles can’t take much more punishment. They’d probably be in a better state if he’d just smacked them with a mallet on a weekly basis, rather than playing football.
There’s being competitive, passionate and willing to fight for the cause, and then there’s just refusing to adapt in order to survive.
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be Wilshere that this criticism was being aimed at. Instead, it would be the brutish, macho, “I’m a real man”, idiotic mentality the Premier League and English football has towards tackling.
But, until the country gets over its thirst for crunching tackles and broken bones, and realises what a blight they are on our game, it’s up the Jack to protect himself.
It’s strange to use Darwinian natural selection as an analogy in football, but it’s one that completely applies to the Arsenal man. If he doesn’t reign in his love of leaving his foot in and dangling a leg, he will soon, like the Dodo before him, become extinct.
Unless he changes quickly, children of the future will one day look back with pity at the Jackus Wilsherus.