Jim White

Wilshere injury is blow for Arsenal – but break could favour England

Jim White

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Poor Jack Wilshere.

He must think he has run over every black cat in London. A player of wretched ill luck, he has now had another blow to his development. After Daniel Agger’s close attentions on Wednesday night, he will now be out of action for six weeks. He is facing a race to be fit for the World Cup.

And so begins another of England’s traditional World Cup warm up yarns. It must happen in other countries too, but here we seem to specialise in the injury drama. Ahead of every tournament one of our principal hopes gets crocked and we spend the next few months fretting whether he will be ready when the competition kicks off.

The almost unbroken line of ignominy stretches back to 1982 when Ron Greenwood took a barely fit Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan to Spain. In the end, the twosome played for about 20 minutes in England’s last game, leaving us with little more than a frustrating sense of what might have been.

Then in both 1986 and 1990, there was Bryan Robson. If there was one thing that you could rely on with Captain Marvel, it was that he would be crocked at a critical time. And, though he manfully battled his way back to prominence, in neither tournament was he at his swashbuckling finest.

In 2002 we had the most dramatic of all, when David Beckham snapped his metatarsal and we were all invited to put our hands on a picture of the damaged bone on the front page of The Sun, in the hope that a collective act of healing could be induced. To a degree it worked: he scored a penalty against Argentina.

In 2006, it was the curse of the metatarsal again, striking down Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. Poor Owen went on to suffer far worse at the tournament itself when he snapped his cruciate ligament, an injury that curtailed his glittering career and an injury that he now believes was caused by rushing back to fitness for the World Cup.

Then in 2010, it was Rooney again. Though that time it seemed to be an excess of ginger facial hair that was the issue.

Now there is Wilshere.

Six weeks is the suggested recovery time from the hairline fracture he sustained in Agger’s challenge. Which gives him no more than a couple of Arsenal games to get himself up to match fitness before the World Cup preparations begin in earnest, marginally more than Owen, for instance, had before the 2006 competition. The only competitive action he enjoyed before heading to Japan was as a second half substitute in Newcastle’s final game of the season.

For Arsene Wenger, in the meantime, the issue is of slightly more immediate concern. As it happens, he was in philosophical mood at his weekly press conference, absolving both Agger and England’s management of blame. Inside, though, he will have been fuming about it, frustrated at a blow well beyond his control.

For sure Arsenal will be insured against such risk. So will the FA. A huge premium will have been paid and the insurance company will now be forking out Wilshire’s wages for the duration of his lay off.

But this is not a financial issue. It is bad enough for the Arsenal boss that he has seen Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey laid up for lengthy periods of time after being injured while playing in club colours. On Wednesday he had to watch one of his most important assets being sabotaged while on duty for someone else. That must really hurt.

Because while the rest of the country hope that he is fit in time for the World Cup, Wenger knows that he won’t be able to pick Wilshere for the next dozen Arsenal games. At such a critical juncture in the season, when he needs his brightest and best fit and firing if he is to have any chance of breaking his trophy duck, this was the lowest of blows. From his point of view, this was yet further evidence that the world is conspiring against him.

Mind, from the England fan’s perspective, whisper it, but this might not be the worst thing in the world. Given that Wilshere managed to limp on for more than half an hour after he had been crocked by the Dane, it does not suggest it was the most long-term of problems.

And a few weeks out now may well mean the player does not turn up in Brazil exhausted.

Provided he has a couple of Arsenal games at the tail end of the season in which to hone his match fitness, he could be heading to the World Cup refreshed, alert and hugely motivated.

Unlike what has happened in the past when more substantial issues have affected our best hopes, this could be a blessing in disguise. Though we can safely say Arsene Wenger won’t be seeing it that way.

By Jim White - on Twitter @jimw1

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