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Arsenal still crossing their fingers over Jack Wilshere’s fitness

Occasional England international Jack Wilshere has certainly endured his fair share of injuries during his professional career. Since making his first team debut with Arsenal during the 2008/09 campaign, he has only managed to play more than 25 Premier League matches just twice (including last year’s loan spell at Bournemouth). With seemingly constant ankle/knee/leg issues, Wilshere’s career has not exactly gone to plan. After all, the midfielder was seen as one of the most exciting talents in all of England when he made his senior debut with the Gunners at the age of just 16.

The midfielder recently spoke to Arsenal Player on his senior career as a teenager, and specifically the differences in dealing with injuries then and now. “When I first broke into the first team, even looking back when I was 16, you take things for granted,” said Wilshere. “I was training every day and when you’re a 16-year-old, you can do that.”

“As you get older your body changes, you pick up injuries, you have to be more careful with certain situations and it makes you stronger as well. I’ve always loved playing football and that’s what I wanted to do.”

“Of course there’s been times when it’s been tough, when you’re injured and you wake up in the morning, you think ‘Oh I’ve got to go to training, all the other lads are training, you’ve got to go to the gym.’ That makes you stronger and it makes you appreciate it more and try and do everything you can to keep fit and keep on the pitch.”

From an Arsenal perspective, Wilshere is a Gunner through and through. The midfielder has been with the north London outfit since he was nine years old. After returning to his home club after a season on the south coast, Wilshere is now playing for his Arsenal career. Now 25, and in the last year of his current contract, the midfielder will have to impress manager Arsene Wenger again to earn a fresh deal with the club.

Though he has not yet played a Premier League match this season with the Gunners, he has managed to feature in two Europa League games and also a League Cup tie. While the competition in these fixtures was not exactly world class, Wilshere has performed well so far. Adapting to Arsenal’s relatively newer formation (to him at least), Wilshere has boasted a 91% pass completion and an assist in the two European competition matches.

This aforementioned formation change does not seem to bother Wilshere. “I can play in the deeper midfield role, which I did against Doncaster, and then I went and played on the left [against BATE],” Wilshere told Arsenal Player. “I say on the left, but the boss told me before the game that he wanted me to come inside, get in the pockets [of space]. It’s almost like a number 10 position if you like. I’m enjoying both roles to be honest and looking forward to getting more minutes in both.”

Versatility has always been a strong suit for Wilshere, both with Arsenal and the England national team. He has been deployed as a central midfielder, a defensive midfielder, and in the advanced number 10 role for the Three Lions since he earned his first senior cap in 2010. Although some will downplay Wilshere’s potential impact with the England national team, he can certainly be an asset if he was to be reintroduced into the team by manager Gareth Southgate.

England did in fact qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia; however, the Three Lions weren’t exactly ferocious in attack during the qualification stage. The biggest issue appeared to be a lack of creativity from the middle of the pitch. Midfielders Dele Alli and Jordan Henderson both featured in eight out of the 10 World Cup qualification group matches. Taking Malta out of the equation, the duo managed to record zero goals and one assist combined during these matches.

While Alli and Henderson are very capable players, neither of them are great ‘creators’ with the ball. Wilshere is arguably more suitable to create goalscoring chances from midfield. England have also been without Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley as of late due to injuries to both players.

Chances Created per 90 Minutes During the 2016/17 Premier League Season:

Henderson – 1.32
Alli – 1.51

Wilshere – 1.60
Lallana – 1.62
Barkley – 2.54

Whether Southgate brings Wilshere back into the England national team or not remains to be seen. However, the England boss did recently claim that he wouldn’t “dismiss any creative player” from inclusion into the team, as long as they are playing regularly with their respective club.

Though Wilshere isn’t quite there yet with Arsenal, he does claim that he is ready and capable of playing frequently. “My fitness levels, if I’m honest, are probably the best they’ve ever been,” proclaimed the midfielder. With Wenger and Southgate both being open-minded with Wilshere, it’s going to all come down to his fitness and ability to stay on the pitch once again.

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