With the start of the season quickly creeping up on the calendar and the transfer window being open until the end of August, Arsenal, like most other Premier League teams, aren’t sure who will be in the line-up on opening day and who might not be with the club any more.
One thing looks certain though, and that’s that Gunners midfielders Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere won’t be ready to play when the season kicks off. In fact, neither of them will likely make their way into the squad until October. Czech Republic international Rosicky is out due to a follow-up operation on his Achilles tendon and Wilshere is still sidelined due to his ankle injury.
The 31-year-old Rosicky originally suffered his injury during this summer’s Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine and Wilshere sustained his last July in a pre-season tournament game against the New York Red Bulls at the Emirates and has been out ever since. Rosicky’s manager Pavel Paska confirmed the news about his client. He said Rosicky still had some swelling that had to go down, but the good news is that he’s already started his rehabilitation program. It’s possible that he could return earlier than forecast, but these types of injuries tend to take a bit longer to heal the older you get.
Twenty-year-old England international Wilshere will be able to keep the 31-year-old Rosicky company since he’ll be joining him on the sidelines. Wilshere looked to be set to return to the line-up a few times last season, but suffered setbacks on each occasion. He’s also undergone a knee operation since sitting out. Arsenal’s medical staff is keeping a close eye on Wilshere’s status, but he apparently hasn’t started training yet.
Manager Arsene Wenger said he doesn’t really have a clue when he’ll be returning to action, but claimed Wilshere was doing well. Wenger said Wilshere’s been working out in the gym, but there’s no way he’ll be ready to play when the season kicks off in mid-August. The manager said he doesn’t want to put a return date on either of the players since it might put more pressure on them. He figures the best approach is to simply take things one step at a time and see how they progress. He claimed that Wilshere hasn’t suffered any setbacks this time around and that’s definitely positive news.
Wilshere’s ankle injury ultimately led to a problem with a tendon in his knee and he had to have it surgically repaired. Since he’s just 20 years old, many supporters assumed Wilshere would have healed quicker and would be back in action by now, but things haven’t worked out that way for him. Both Arsenal and England supporters are hoping Wilshere is back in action soon with England’s World Cup qualifying campaign kicking off in September.
While both are key players in Arsenal’s squad, it’s hard to predict just how much the club will miss them. Wenger got used to playing without Wilshere last season since he missed all of it and Rosicky has also been on the injury list far too often since joining the Gunners back in the 2006/07 season. During his first year at Arsenal, Rosicky played in 26 league games and then followed it up by playing in just 18 the next season.
Things were at an all-time low in 2008/09 when he didn’t make a single appearance for the club due to hamstring problems. He returned to the squad in 2009/10 and played in 25 league matches, followed by just 21 in 2010/11 and 28 last season. In fact, last season was his best in an Arsenal jersey since he joined the club, at least appearance-wise. However, he managed just one league goal. He did add a Champions League goal though and set up six others during the season. Rosicky is a good player and well respected since he goes about his job quietly without making a fuss.
However, production-wise he’s been disappointing. Of his total of 19 goals in 165 games overall for Arsenal, just 13 of them have come in the league. Rosicky shines when he plays for his homeland though, as the captain of the Czech Republic has 20 goals in 85 contests. He plays a more aggressive attacking game for his country that is rarely seen when he suits up for Arsenal. As good of a player he is, perhaps it’s time for the Gunners to realize Rosicky is injury prone and is probably most useful to the club as just a substitute.
Wilshere’s also had his share of bad luck over the past year. This season is going to be crucial for him if he makes it back since he’s going to have to start again at square one. He’s definitely a talented player, but to excel in sports you need to have full confidence in your abilities. Wilshere could struggle with confidence problems when he returns… not because he’s not good enough, but because his injuries are going to be in the back of his mind.
Coming back from a serious injury is often harder mentally than it is physically. It’s common for players to subconsciously shy away from certain physical aspects of the game for fear they may re-injure themselves. When they see a physical confrontation shaping up they often pull out of it. And unfortunately, when players do favour old injuries, they often end up suffering new ones.
It’s an important year for Wilshere because if he’s injured again before the season’s over it could be a huge setback to him mentally. This means it may take a bit of time for him to get used to the rigours of playing Premier League football again as he slowly builds his confidence level.
But getting back to the original topic, it would be a good idea if Wenger has other players in mind just in case Wilshere and/or Rosicky are unable to help the cause again this season.