Jack: Why… and what now?

Sunday’s revelations that young Jack Wilshere is going to be out until November has been met with much distress by many an Arsenal fan. Injuries are of course a part of the game, and every club has them. The question we all seem to be asking is; why do we always seem to get more than anyone else? *This morning we’ve awoken to the news that Thomas Vermaelen is set for another spell on the sidelines, but we’ll get to that at the end of Dave’s post (Paul)

Jack loves a tackle

Let’s start with Jack. One of the things that endeared him to us all (apart from his fantastic vision and skill) is his ability to take knocks – pick himself up – dust himself off – and get on with the game. I’m sure Wenger had no intention on him playing the 50+ games he did for club and country last year. It was a culmination of Wenger being under intense pressure, other players having injury’s (Cesc/Rambo/Diaby/Rosicky) and ultimately Jack playing in a manner that was making him undroppable. It’s very easy (and I see many doing it) criticising the manager in hindsight, but if Arsene had dropped him last year, we all would have been up in arms demanding the reintroduction of our talisman, which at the time he undoubtedly was. It does show, however, why Arsene was so against him going away with the Under 21’s. Personally I don’t understand why, after getting his way about the U21 situation, he didn’t give Jack an extended holiday and let him recover fully. I could then go on to say how we should have brought Arteta/Benayoun in July so he wouldn’t be missed as much, but I’d just be covering old ground.

At the end of the day the manager made his decision, and now he must deal with the consequences. I’m sure he regrets playing him ‘in the red zone’ but what choice did he have. If he’s rested him for any of Liverpool (H), Spurs (A), Bolton (A) or United (H) last season there would have been mass hysteria amongst the fans.

Going on to the larger picture of the injury history we’ve had over the last few years, I’m a little bit undecided. Firstly I’m in no doubt that our players are some of the fittest in the game. It’s one of the reasons we seem to be able to cause major problems in the final ten minutes of the game but, like a precision piece of machinery, the more highly tuned and intricate it is, the more chance there is that it will go wrong. There is also a school of thought that we just seem to have accumulated fragile players (although I think that’s a little bit too simplistic).

The good doctor

I have heard people criticise our medical team, but I refuse to believe that we haven’t got the best we can get in that department. I’ve always felt a little bit sorry for Colin Lewin. Since his cousin Gary (still the only physio I’ve heard have his name sung by fans in the stands) went to work full-time with the England set-up, Colin seems to have taken flack from some quarters as if to suggest he isn’t as good a physiotherapist. Now, this might be true, but none of us really know. What I am sure of is that if Colin wasn’t as strong as Gary, Arsenal would have replaced him before now. We do have a wealth of experience in the medical team. Club doctor Gary O’Driscoll (who is also Brian O’Driscoll’s cousin) has worked for the Irish Rugby team and the British & Irish Lions as well as Arsenal. Although rugby is a totally different sport with different injuries, if he felt we were doing something wrong then I’m sure he would make it known or at least be attempting to improve things.

Bad techniques?

The one thing left to analyse is our training techniques. We all know Wenger has been credited with revolutionary training systems since he arrived in England 15 years ago. It is now, however, coming under scrutiny. Wales’ Dutch conditioning coach (Raymond Verheijen), who has a huge amount of experience in both domestic and International football, has openly criticised Arsene Wenger’s set-up. He seems to think we train at too high an intensity. I suppose you are then in the catch 22 of not being as fit (as I’m sure that’s why our players can keep going when others can’t) or having more injuries. I don’t know enough to judge it myself, but I do know Arsenal have had their training independently reviewed recently, so maybe times they are a changing. It doesn’t bring Jack back any quicker though does it!?!

So, we have to get used to life on the pitch without young Mr. Wilshere for now. Let’s face it at least we have an alternative option now. Obviously, in the immediate future, a lot depends on what condition people return from International duty in. Rambo has almost been expected to take on the mantle this season, somewhat unfairly as he & Jack are different types of players, and the Welshman has a massive (and I’m sure bruising) game against England to get through unscathed tomorrow night before we can start counting on his inclusion against Swansea. I’m sure many people will assume that Arteta will just slot into the advanced midfielder slot and therefore be a direct replacement for Cesc. If you have watched Arteta over the years for Everton though, since he moved centrally from wide right, he sits a lot deeper than people realise (much the same as Jack). He also is a lot more combative than people give him credit for (much the same as Jack). In fact, I think our new signing would be more comfortable filling Jack’s boots than he would Cesc’s.

A new hope

This still gives us the problem of who is going to fill the advanced role of the midfield trio. Well Yossi ‘No medical’ Benayoun could play that role, but I’m not sure having two new signings in the midfield straight away would be wise. This is especially poignant as the third is likely to be the young and inexperienced (albeit highly regarded) Emmanuel Frimpong. I think for the Swansea game (injuries permitting) Rambo will play and he and Arteta will share the playmaking responsibilities. Are we then in danger though, of getting into a similar position with young Aaron as we are with Jack? He is (along with Monkey Boy Bale) the poster boy of the Welsh team and at the moment I can’t see him getting much rest!

There is a school of thought that Arshavin should be given the chance to show what he can do centrally. The Swansea game would arguably be an ideal time to do this, but with the start we’ve had I think we just need to get three points and build.

What is the Russian for 'Pull your finger out'?

I always get a little bit restless during the Interlull, but I can’t wait for the two home games we’ve got coming up. We will get the chance to see all the new signings (if not against Swansea then against Shrewsbury). Plus I think many of us see Saturday as a chance to get back on the horse again after licking our Manchester United inflicted wounds. League wise, we are entering a three game run where we should be looking at a minimum 7 point haul if we want to take something substantial into the derby on the 2nd October.

Either way, it’d be nice to talk about football again rather than transfers and injuries.

Thanks for reading.


*Well sadly its injuries that are once again the major Arsenal talking point. As reported at the top of this post Thomas Vermaelen is set to miss the next two months after undergoing surgery on his ankle in Stockholm yesterday.

Broken again

It’s a major blow to both the player & the team, we’ve only just got used to having the Belgian back after he missed much of last season with an achilles injury.

It seems that this is just pure bad luck, the centre half took a kick in the game against Udinese and has failed to recover sufficiently during the intervening fortnight leading the club to sanction surgery in the hope that Tommy can avoid another lengthy enforced absence. The nature of the injury and indeed the medical procedure undertaken to treat it are not as yet clear but all this means that Per Mertesacker is going to have to hit the ground running & form an understanding with Laurent Koscielny.

Instant impact required

There are still many Gooners adamant that we should have signed Gary Cahill ahead of the German, or indeed as well as, and no doubt those voices of discontent will now be crying out again and will go into hyper drive should the German international make even the smallest of mistakes in his first few appearances for the club. If there is indeed an error made by the giant German then I hope that there isn’t a flurry of outrage and cries of ‘Not good enough’ because we’re once again asking a player to step into a team devoid of some of its best and most pivotal players, expecting new additions to instantly fill the breach and look as if they had played in this team their whole careers. Hopefully that is what will happen but we can’t go heaping expectations or indeed throwing tantrums and call for heads to roll at the sight of slight mishaps.

With any luck Vermaelen will be back much sooner than two month window that has been suggested but until then it is yet another center back partnership for the Arsenal – Mertecielny.



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