The longer a player remains injured, the better he seems to become in the minds of the supporters. Jack Wilshere is currently at the centre of this phenomenon. To deny his obvious talent would be thoughtless, yet just how much can Arsenal fans expect from the young midfielder considering that, based on his latest return date, by the time he returns to action he will have spent over a year on the sidelines?
When Thomas Vermaelen returned from a similar spell on the treatment table he gave an interview in which he remarked that he didn’t understand why people needed time to return to their best, and that you don’t forget how to play football.
However, similar sentiments cannot, unfortunately be applied to all footballers. Aaron Ramsey is testament to that.
Ramsey may not have been deserving of the criticism he received lat season, yet he was far from his best. In the season prior to Ryan Shawcross’ horrific challenge on the Welsh captain Ramsey was on a notable rise.
His performances had increased dramatically from his first season and even managed 4 goals in his 29 appearances, even though he only started 12 of those games. Last season, following his return from injury, in 35 starts and 9 substitute appearances he only managed 3 goals.
Now, clearly goals are not the only way to judge a player’s performances, yet anyone who actually watched Ramsey’s entire season could tell you that his performances were, more often than not, inadequate.
His impressive, early-season form, perhaps a result of the confidence from his reasonable return at the end of the 2010-11 season, was followed by a slow demise, which eventually saw him lose his place in the side to Tomas Rosicky.
Sympathisers may point to the increased pressure Ramsey was exposed to last season as a result of Wilshere’s injury and the departure of both Fabregas and Nasri. Similar points could be raised when considering the impact of Gary Speed’s death, and Ramsey’s role as Welsh captain, on the young midfielder’s form. These are valid points and whilst the impact these factors had on Ramsey are debateable, they definitely didn’t help.
However, to suggest that Wilshere will not be returning to similar pressure would be naïve, especially if Arsenal has a poor start to the season. It seems inconceivable that Arsenal should start the 2012-13 campaign as badly as they did last year yet before Arsenal’s captain’s future is decided we should reserve judgement on the likelihood of just such an occurrence.
The problem with this situation is as such: is Wenger confident enough that Wilshere will both return on time and his return from injury will coincide with his return to form?
If the answer to either of those questions is negative then the fans, club and manager must reassess their options. It is too easy to believe that Wilshere’s return will be the answer to their problems. Undoubtedly, it will help. He is an exceptional talent and his creative force has been sorely missed in Arsenal’s midfield.
Yet to pin a season’s hopes on such uncertainty appears a dangerous tactic. In reality, it seems unlikely that those at Arsenal are doing so.
When Wilshere went in for ‘minor knee surgery’ in May the estimated recovery time given was 2-3 months and you would imagine that a professional medical team, as well as a manager who is all too familiar with players with injury problems, would predict that further complications were likely.
Having experienced such complications with van Persie, Rosicky, Ramsey, Diaby and Vermaelen in recent times it would appear gullible of Wenger to believe that Wilshere will be the driving force of his team next season.
There are, though, two points that should be noted. Firstly, the more support Wilshere is given, the quicker his form will return. Whilst Aaron Ramsey was out injured he consistently commented on the wealth of support he received. However, after a little while back in the game that changed considerably. I was at many an Arsenal game last season where Ramsey was jeered and it is totally unacceptable.
Arsenal fans may have been unhappy with his performances but showering him in negativity will only harm the cause.
The same cannot happen with Wilshere. He really could be the future of this Arsenal team but he will need help and encouragement along the way.
Secondly, if Wenger is, as Arsenal fans hope, not expecting Wilshere to deliver the midfield solutions he craves this season then perhaps a foray in to the transfer market is necessary. If Ramsey’s form does not improve or Rosicky’s injury is worse than first thought then the beginning of the season could be tough for the Gunners, especially with Ramsey going to the Olympics and Song to the African Cup of Nations in January.
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