In another eagerly anticipated weekend in the Premier League where there is sure to be high drama, goalmouth action and controversial issues to be witnessed, what is likely to ensue in midweek will appear a dreary damp squib.
Yes, you guessed it, it’s the international break. Though thankfully, not a two-week break which makes us put a cross in our calendars every day until some exciting football returns to our screens, but just the unnecessary international friendlies that, in an environmentally turbulent (no pun intended) culture, tens of thousands of air miles are clocked up just so that substitutions can be made every time the ball boy goes to fetch the ball from the empty stands and we can be reminded in the comfort of our armchairs what a Mexican wave looks like.
Therefore, as England travel to Sweden on Wednesday to grace the Scandinavian country’s new stadium, it is hardly any surprise that Arsene Wenger has once again voiced his frustrating regarding Jack Wilshere’s inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s squad. In the past the Arsenal manager’s constant gripes over his players jetting off to play for their respective countries have become annoying. However, whether you love or hate Arsene Wenger, surely in this instance he has a point.
Wilshere is a world class talent and an invaluable member for both his club and country. After seventeen months out of action due to various injuries and niggles, it has been obvious in his three games back, in which he was only completed the full 90 minutes in one of these games, that he is not 100 per cent fit. In fact, arguably his sending off in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United was evidence that his match fitness wasn’t quite there as he toiled to keep up with the defensive duties that were imposed on him in a one-sided affair.
Therefore, in fairness to Wenger, the question does have to be asked, how much can Wilshere actually benefit from playing in Sweden? The Frenchmen believes that he has arrived at a diplomatic solution with Roy Hodgson with the England manager telling Wenger on the phone that Wilshere has been selected so that he can, and I quote, ‘connect with the group’.
I find it hard to believe that the England manager is willing to fly Wilshere all the way to Sweden, so that he can gel with a 23-man squad, of which five haven’t won an England cap yet and are realistically unlikely to play when the World Cup does come around in two years time.
While there is nothing to benefit from Wilshere turning out for England next Wednesday, there is plenty to lose, and it would bring about a sore financial irony for Arsenal and Wenger, and here’s why. As Wenger has said himself, it is clear that these international fixtures in November act as preparation for World Cup qualifiers in March; this is what the friendlies in February are for. So the friendlies are quite clearly a money-making scheme in order to fill the pockets of the football authorities and the European governing bodies. To this extent, the friendlies are less about football and more about economics.
Therefore, if Jack Wilshere were to suffer a reoccurrence of one of the several niggles he has sustained during his lengthy delay, and if it were to keep him out for a sustained period of time once again, then the financial implications for Arsenal would be great. Wilshere is the type of player who can really have an impact for the better on Arsenal’s season. If he were to be out as a result of playing in a meaningless friendly, Wilshere’s injury could impact on the money they receive for finishing in the Premier League, merchandise on Wilshere, and dare I say the financial implication of not qualifying for the Champions League. This may seem a little far-fetched to surmise at this moment in time, but still true nonetheless.
Looking at Wilshere’s call-up from Wenger’s point of view, it is surely also a case of once bitten, twice shy for the Arsenal manager, following the injury sustained to Abou Diaby on international duty for France in World Cup Qualifiers against Finland and Belarus. Wenger had pre-warned the French Federation about the midfielder’s lack of fitness before the Finland match and consequentially Diaby hasn’t been available for Arsenal since thanks to France’s ignorance.
For the risk of contradicting myself, I do think the Diaby situation was different in the sense that there is a void of importance between World Cup Qualifiers and friendlies. France are well within their rights to field an important player who may provide the assist or goal to win an important game for his country, whereas with Wilshere’s situation, there is no way his current fragile condition should be risked for a meaningless friendly.
So it will certainly be interesting to see how many minutes Wilshere gets on Wednesday, and while we’ll be dozing off as the 23rd substitution comes onto the pitch with just four minutes on the clock, Arsene Wenger will be edged forward on his sofa, biting what nails he has left, covering his eyes with his beret and praying that his starlet will pull through and be available for the north London derby just three days later.
Am I missing my patriotic fuse or does Wenger have a point? You can also voice your opinions on Twitter @matt_of_the_day