As World Cup selection is becoming more and more imminent, the clock is ticking fast for Jack Wilshere to board the plane. The Arsenal midfielder is yet to return from the hairline fracture to his navicular bone suffered in England’s 1-0 friendly win over Denmark back in March. And it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll reach peak fitness for the time the World Cup rolls around.
Arsene Wenger has tried to keep a positive face throughout Wilshere’s recovery period, and has always maintained that he will regain his fitness in time to make the World Cup. But even this is hazed in doubt now as Wenger has admitted he is unsure whether Wilshere will feature again for the Gunners this season.
This clearly presents a dilemma for Roy Hodgson. Is it worth taking a risk on one of his star players, when there are so many more knocking on his door?
The England boss has said he will disregard players making a late surge this season. So you can rule out the chances of a surprise inclusion ahead of Wilshere. But there are a whole host of names – Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and Raheem Sterling to name but a few – who not only would provide a direct rivalry to Wilshere’s spot in the squad, but whom have also performed exceptionally well this season. Better than Wilshere was doing for most of the year.
Is a gamble on Jack Wilshere really worth it? Examples from the past show that rushing injured players back in time for the World Cup rarely pays off. Wayne Rooney was out of sorts in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and as a result he is still yet to score a goal in the finals. Similarly, in 2002, France took the chance with Zinedine Zidane after he got injured in a warm-up match. The French were on the brink of elimination when Zidane was risked against Denmark in the final group game, and it was barely worth the effort.
Hodgson has stated categorically that he won’t risk players who aren’t 100 per cent fit. His resolve will really be tested when it comes to Wilshere though.
It is more than likely that Wilshere will be selected for the provisional 30-man squad to take to Miami for the England training camp. There Hodgson will get the chance to assess Wilshere first-hand and make a decision on him.
The supposed six-week recovery period has now crept into its ninth week, and may even stretch to 10. There has clearly been running contact between the Arsenal and England bosses, as Wenger stated how Hodgson was enthusiastic on the prospect of Jack Wilshere being part of his England squad.
But all three – Wilshere, Hodgson, Wenger – need to be certain of his fitness before the decision is made on him. Games come round thick and fast during international tournaments, and with the added burden of travel, his condition will be tested to the max.
We have touched on Wilshere’s need to recognise his own limits a few weeks ago now. And it is vital for him to know his body. Doctors have declared mission ‘Get Falcao to Brazil’, after the Colombian striker ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in January. This type of carelessness – rushing a man back within five months of a serious injury – is potentially career-damaging. If Falcao makes it to Brazil, he won’t be at full fitness, and will likely do no good to himself. Wilshere is still in the fledgling stages of his football career, and doesn’t need to take unnecessary risks with his health.
Understandably, he will be desperate to go to Brazil. World Cups don’t come around so often to take for granted, and Wilshere won’t consider his age as an excuse for missing out. He won’t be looking to the future, but neither will Roy Hodgson. He needs to select a squad with England’s best hopes at heart. A fit and firing Jack Wilshere would undeniably be part of that. But a Jack Wilshere without games under his belt and a healthy body? We shall have to wait and see.