Midfielder Jack Wilshere has insisted that he won’t be changing his playing style as he makes his long-awaited return to the Arsenal first team.
Jack played around 10 minutes for the Gunners as they were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Sunderland last Saturday, his first appearance for the senior side in some 10 months as he recovered from a surgery on his foot.
When he has suffered impact injuries in the past, there have calls for Jack to release the ball quicker, to avoid drawing opponents into committing to the tackle – an issue which has caused the majority of his numerous injuries over the past few seasons.
Speaking to the Arsenal website, however, Jack echoed the thoughts of Arsene Wenger, agreeing that it would be difficult for him to change his style of play which, at its best, is superb to watch and dazzlingly effective.
He said: “I don’t think there is anything I can do differently. All my injuries have been impact injuries and I have been a little bit unfortunate at times when I have maybe overrun the ball a little bit, so maybe I can work on dribbling with the ball closer to my foot.
“I’m not one of those players who is blessed with Theo’s pace who can run behind you. When I’m on the ball, I have to get close to [the defender], which is going to cause him to attempt to tackle me or mistime it as we have seen in the past. That is part of my game.
“When I was injured, I read a few things and I was thinking maybe they were right. Maybe I should pass it a little bit more or a little bit quicker, but as soon as I get back on the ball and there is an opportunity for me to run at someone, that is what I want to do. I don’t think I can change.
“I have just got to train every day. I have never really had injuries with my muscles, or any problems like that. It is just impact injuries. Hopefully I can avoid them.”
I have to admit, when Jack returned at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, I found myself wincing every time a player wandered within 10 yards of him – a state of affairs that is desperately sad.
He should absolutely be free to play as he wishes, to dart forward, to commit tacklers, and to offload the killer passes at the last possible moment – he shouldn’t have to change what he does for fear of suffering another injury.
If he were forced into playing a safer role, deeper lying and chiefly concerned with distributing the ball from defence to attack, it would blunt the attacking instinct that has made him so great to watch over the years.
Just think of that goal against Norwich, were he linked with Olivier Giroud, before volleying past a hapless John Ruddy, producing one of the best goals ever scored by an Arsenal player – would a conservative Jack be capable of such feats?
But it’s difficult to shake that feeling that it’s merely a matter of time before Jack is struck down again, such is his misfortune. If it’s not Paddy McNair nailing him with a shocking lunge, it’s his own team mate, in the shape of Gabriel, putting him out for months on end.
It seems the only sure fire way of protecting the guy would be to fill him with molten adamantium and clad him in yellow spandex – our very own Wolverine.
In truth, Jack is right; he has to play on as he does, taking risks, drawing tackles, and driving the ball forward. At the same time, fans have to accept that, barring a quite remarkable turnaround in fortune, he will always be beset by injury.
It doesn’t quite seem fair that someone so talented should have to spent more of their time in recovery than on the pitch, but if it’s the price that must be paid, then let it be paid.