Jack Wilshere is in serious danger of leapfrogging Abou Diaby to become the most injured player in Arsenal history, and quite frankly it’s sad. At this stage in his career the 23-year-old was expected to be one of Europe’s best midfielders, wanted by Barcelona and driving Engaldn to international success (OK, maybe not). However, he has become as fragile as a china doll and if he can’t get a full season under his belt soon, it is going to be a case of what might have been, or maybe it already is.
The England man’s latest setback is set to hand him another three months on the sidelines, a cruel blow. It was the 2009/10 season when the Gunners supporter showed the world what he could do, dazzling the Premier League in the white of Bolton and returning to the Emirates ready to step up and be the player we all hoped he would be.
He did that with aplomb, impressing so much over the next two seasons that the likes of Xavi and Bastian Schweinsteiger were singing his praises. However, injuries have hit and he has been robbed of vital playing time, leaving us only to marvel at a few flashes of brilliance before he is inevitably stretchered off, not to be seen for a number of months, providing Arsenal supporters with excuses at his absence, and optimism at his return in the near future. It's a vicious circle,
The most telling stat of his career, which is now in its eighth season, is that Wilshere has started just 79 Premier League games for Arsene Wenger’s men. That is staggering for a player considered so crucial to a football club and with so much ability. His contant injuriies may have something to do with the fact Arsenal now have a saturation of creative midfielders in their ranks. Surely a time must come when even Wenger loses faith? Just how long can the north Londoners persist with the stricken Wilshere?
The Arsenal number 10 is not the first player of immense talent to leave both domestic and international fans wondering what if?
A wander across north London brings us to another Englishman with an incredible amount of ability but, quite possibly the weakest knees any man has ever been cursed with. Ledley King was the ball playing centre-back England dreamed of, even in a generation of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jamie Carragher and Sol Campbell, he was regularly branded the best central defender of his generation.
Now, it may just be a case that it was the ‘in thing’ to say at the time. To brand the Spurs stopper as excellent may have been lazy, but when you were witness to one of his commanding displays it was hard to disagree. Fabio Capello was so taken with King that he took him to the World Cup in 2010, he inevitably got injured.
The ever-positive Harry Redknapp, when talking about his defenders troublesome knee, proclaimed: “There’s no cure. There’s no cartilage, nothing to operate on. It’s just bone on bone.” A small molecule of sense from the ex-West Ham boss.
The Bow-born man will always be revered as a legend at White Hart Lane but, if he was put together a little better, he could have been so much more.
Owen Hargreaves always seemed something of a mystical player when he was Bayern Munich. He was a Canadian-born youngster, who had played from Wales at U19 level, England at U21 level and was now playing for Germany’s biggest club, it just didn’t seem to make sense.
Make no mistake, the tenacious midfielder was some player. He commanded the centre of the park superbly and when he finally established himself in the England set up, he showed all the makings of a world class operator. His displays at the 2006 World Cup were the brightest part of the experience for the Three Lions and he was handed the player of the year award in that year.
When he joined Manchester United in 2007, it looked as though the Red Devils finally had a midfielder who could run things for years to come, they’d replaced Roy Keane at last; and then injury struck. From July 2008 to July 2011 he spent 10 months on the pitch and 25 months off it with knee injuries. It basically ended his career. He played just 39 games for United in four seasons and just four for Manchester City, whom he joined in 2011.
There seems to be a correlation between Tottenham, classy centre-halves and horrific injury records. Woodgate was the most un-English of defenders, he glided elegantly and distributed superbly, for anyone who doesn’t remember, think John Stones but with flashier hair..
However, the everlasting memory of the Middlesbrough boy done-good, is that of him disappearing down the tunnel either on a stretcher or with the assistance of a physio. The 35-year-old defender has been marred by numerous injuries and only ever played eight times for the national team.
He shone at Leeds and then moved to Newcastle, where he was that good he got a move to Real Madrid. He impressed, his debut aside, but again injuries restricted him to nine appearances in two seasons. Moves to Boro, Spurs and Stoke followed as did more injuries. He’s now back at his hometown club playing in the second tier and no doubt wondering what might have been.