It seems that a routine scan of Jack Wilshere’s ankle shows continued inflammation serious enough for the medical staff to recommend a further two weeks of rest, with Wenger admitting that it will be “very difficult” to know when Wilshere can return. This setback means that Wilshere misses the Reading match, which is not new news, but will now also miss the April 6th trip to West Brom as well as our home-match against Norwich. Beyond that, it’s hard to say when he’ll be back. The news and tone of Wenger’s description are hard to describe as upbeat or optimistic, containing as it does words like “cautious” and “very difficult to know”. The last time Wilshere went down with an ankle injury, he was gone for 17 months, so it’s alarming to see what was once a two- to three-week rest get extended for a few weeks, and in a way that feels indefinite rather than specific.
While it’s true that we can probably get by over the next few weeks against the likes of Reading, West Brom, and Norwich, the longer-term picture is harder to feel good about. I’m not referring to tougher matches down the line or securing 4th place this season. I’m worried that Wilshere runs the risk of getting “Diaby-ized”, succumbing to a string of injuries that keep him out of action and that gradually erode his form. Speaking of Diaby, news from arsenal.com has him with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will knock him out for eight to nine months. The report is quite skimpy, barely five sentences, but it’s terrible news for a player already plagued by injury. I genuinely feel bad for Diaby, victim to a string of injuries that would be positively laughable if it wasn’t so sad. At the risk then of reducing the man to a symbol, let’s hope that Wilshere, Wenger, and the medical team learn from Diaby’s example and err on the side of excessive caution. If this means that Wilshere sits for the rest of the season, so be it. He’s too young and too bold to be asked about his own fitness; he might try to rush himself back too soon, and there’s no good reason for that. Yes, I know 4th place is a prized target, but Wilshere is the kind of player we hope to have and build around for the next decade, if not longer.
Diaby’s case is a bit more complicated. Does this mark the end of his time with Arsenal? Could it mark the end of his career? A torn ACL is no sprain, inflammation, or bruise. This is going to take time, and when he does come back, the lingering mental and physical trauma is likely to plague quite a while longer than the injury itself. Here’s hoping he comes back in 10 months a new man.
We’ll come back later with more upbeat news on the squad and the upcoming match with Reading. For now, hope the two lads recover quickly…