“My mind’s telling me no. But my body, My body is telling me yeah.”
Ok, so let’s ignore the real meaning behind R Kelly’s ‘Bump N’ Grind’ and relate it back to football. Because, let’s be honest, everything can be related back to football. While we dismiss the song’s sexual connotations Jack Wilshere should take heed to the words it speaks. When the Arsenal midfielder went down under a 50-50 challenge with Daniel Agger in England’s Wednesday night showdown with Denmark the look on his face told the story. It should have told the England medical staff, it should have told the players, but most of all it should have told Jack himself.
A hairline fracture and a six-week lay-off later and hopefully he has finally got the message. Jack Wilshere needs to start taking the signs his body is giving him seriously. His absence at such a crucial stage of the season is a potential detriment to not only the success of Arsenal’s already stuttering season, but for England too. Wilshere has proven himself to be a big game player. Back at just the tender age of 19 he famously took the game to Barcelona’s dream-team as he, as many liked to comment at the time, had Xavi ‘in his pocket’.
Similarly for England, Wilshere had one of his best career performances when playing for the national side, against Brazil, at Wembley. Forget the fact it was a friendly, any game at Wembley comes heaped with pressure. Add in Brazil to the equation and it increases tenfold. International friendlies aren’t pre-season friendlies for your club. You haven’t been off partying in Vegas, or Ibiza, or wherever hell footballers spend their summer down time. You don’t play against Barnet or the Malaysian All-Star XI. They tend to be bang in the middle of important periods of the season when players should be at their sharpest and most determined.
Wilshere’s all-action style is always going to come at some cost. The way in which he plays, driving at players and hurtling himself into tackles will always produce risk. He’s not the kind to shy away from a challenge and rightly so. He’s not touted as a future Arsenal and England captain for nothing. But there comes a point when he needs to take notice of the signals his body is sending him.
He missed the best part of 18 crucial months of development as a footballer due to the fact he played through a whole previous season with a recurrent ankle injury. He approached it with great fortitude but it ultimately cost him, and Arsenal. At a time where the Gunners lost two absolutely pivotal players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the time had come for young Jack to step up to the plate. But such was the extent of his ankle complaint, he was nowhere to be found.
If a six-week week absence just nine weeks before the announcement of the provisional World Cup squad isn’t enough to send a message to him, then I don’t know what is. Wilshere’s desire to play every minute of every game is admirable, but he now faces an anxious wait. Hodgson has admitted he won’t risk a player who isn’t 100 per cent fit when he has so many options to choose from. With the emergence of Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley as seriously viable options for a central role, Wilshere can no longer be guaranteed his place in the side.
It would be a huge shame and a real blow to everyone involved if Jack Wilshere doesn’t recover in time to make the World Cup. With the qualities he has there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves his place. What he can bring to the side, nobody else can. But his body can only take so much. Wilshere has the potential to become indispensable, but he isn’t giving himself the chance. If Hodgson isn’t going to take unnecessary risks, then neither should Jack. It can be best for a boxer to stay grounded once he is grounded and the same can apply to Jack. It’s time he opens his mind to what his body is trying to say.