The club announced today that Jack Wilshere suffered a hairline fracture after a bad tackle in England’s friendly win over Denmark. Wilshere will be sidelined for six weeks, at least, and may struggle to regain fitness ahead of the World Cup placing his hopes for a berth with England in Brazil in jeopardy. Needless to say, this is terrible news for Jack, Arsenal, and England.
Arsenal have been in a bit of slump lately so it’s normal for people to forget how important Jack is to this team when he’s on form. His goal of the season candidate against Norwich is the perfect example of his directness and ability to break through the opposition’s midfield. In the video, Wilshere picks the ball up from defense, dribbles around his markers, passes, moves, passes, moves, and then shows great touch to finish the attack. Wilshere brings a directness to Arsenal that’s refreshing on a team with so many midfielders who prefer to drop back in the final phase and create for others.
Jack has been struggling with form these last few weeks and that is in no small part due to him being the target of opposition midfielders. Wilshere is Arsenal’s most fouled player with 2.1 per game last season and 1.9 per game this season. Remember, those are the fouls that the referees bother to call and also remember that Opta doesn’t count it when the referee waves play on. I suspect many of us feel as if Jack is fouled 4 or more times a game, at least.
As much as I would like someone in the midfield who can protect Jack, Arsenal are not at fault for this treatment that Wilshere receives. The referees need to have a look at themselves and every England supporter who also supports a club like Stoke, who fouled Wilshere 4 times (that were called), should be ashamed of themselves for glorifying Wilshere’s rough treatment. When England are missing someone to drive their midfield forward in Brazil this summer, you can thank Charlie Adam and Glen Wheelan for Wilshere’s absence as much as you can thank Danny Agger for breaking his foot in their “friendly”.
The fact that Daniel Agger broke Wilshere’s foot should be the issue here, not whether Arsenal “played him in the red zone”. This isn’t a soft-tissue injury. This isn’t a muscle strain. This was a horrible tackle by Agger, which had shades of Shawcross on Ramsey. Agger lost control of the ball (like Shawcross) and seeing the Arsenal man coming, lunged in with a sweeping leg to try to win the ball. Agger doesn’t even win the ball until he takes the man. A bit ironic that Liverpool and Arsenal are locked in a title race and a Liverpool player takes out an important Arsenal player with an horrific tackle.
If there’s a silver lining to all this it’s that Arsene has sort of packed the team full of center mids who can take Wilshere’s place. Assuming that Arsenal get knocked out by Bayern, if the Gunners go all the way to the FA Cup final, they will only have 14 total games from today until the end of the season and at least three players who can play in Jack’s position.
Aaron Ramsey has another week or so before he returns but he’s the natural replacement for Jack in the midfield. In fact, if Ramsey recovers his early season form, he is a huge upgrade in terms of overall workrate, passing, defense, and offense.
While Arsenal are waiting for Ramsey, Arsene has plenty of options owing to the fact that he essentially has 11 center mids when everyone is healthy. The list of Arsenal midfielders who are available (or soon to be available) to Arsene is pretty incredible, really: Cazorla, Podolski, Flamini, Arteta, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Ramsey, Özil, Ox, and Gnabry.
Here are some options for lineups, including the two “wing” positions at Arsenal:
Cazorla – Flamini – Rosicky – Ox – Özil
Podolski – Arteta – Cazorla – Rosicky – Ox
Cazorla – Arteta – Özil – Ramsey – Gnabry
Gibbs – Kallstrom – Arteta – Flamini – Bendtner*
The key question with all of these is chemistry and balance. For example, the Flamini-Arteta experiment has been poor at times and I would be very concerned if Arsenal started those two against a slick dribbler like Everton’s Ross Barkley. For Saturday, I suspect that Arsene will play Cazorla – Arteta – Rosicky – Özil – Ox or some variation of that with Rosicky the main midfield runner and first line of defense, Arteta the cleanup guy, Özil free to roam, Cazorla cutting in on the wing and Ox doing what he did in his cameo against Stoke — kicking ass and chewing gum. And he’s all out of gum.
Losing Jack at this time is going to put more pressure on the remaining players at Arsenal to push the team forward. His injury also means one less body for rotation. It’s not the kind of news that we wanted to hear coming out of the International “break” but Arsenal will just have to deal with it the best they can. Arsene, luckily (?), has plenty of options.
I’m all packed and ready to go
I leave for London tonight and because of the way the earth rotates and the direction I’m flying, I won’t be landing there until tomorrow 11:20 GMT. I will publish a Les Crang piece on Ray Parlor while I’m in the air (magic) and after that you won’t hear from me again until Sunday, probably. I will do a stats preview over on Arseblog News while drinking my 4:30 am coffee on Saturday but no post-match post until Sunday. I will do a similar post before and after the Bayern match. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this week and I am going to breathe deep the air of London and Munich rather than spend the whole time in front of the laptop.
For those who wonder about this sort of stuff, here’s my packing list:
7amkickoff’s Traveling Arsenal Fan Pre-Match Packing List
1 Flamini sleeveless short sleeve shirt
5 Other shirts for the Flamini shirt to yell at and tell where to be positionally on defense
4 Bags of Magic of the Cup coffee beans
6 Pairs of Bendtner’s dropped trousers
8 Pairs of Northern Monkey socks
8 Pairs of Flamini v. Wilshere boxer shorts
1 Package of Stoke’s finest flushable wipes
1 Passport to choose your own adventure, oops you die on page 16
1 Bottle of Never in Doubt anti-anxiety pills
2 You should read more, books
1 Arsene Wenger didn’t see it digital camera obscura
1 Spend your entire vacation on it laptop
1 Wad of spend some ******* money
1 Bottle of Agger’s tackle left a Maker’s Mark whiskey
I recon a feller could have a pretty good time in
London Munich with that.
*Personal favorite — I call it “31 Flavors of Disaster”