Arsenal

Is Jack Wilshere Really Back?

 • by Nick Callow
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Arsenal’s Europa League football debut was largely memorable for a fiasco which led to delayed kick-off and thousands of Cologne fans taking over the stadium.

But the first time Arsenal fans took any real interest in the match as when a few substitutes started warming up shortly after Cologne had taken a shock early lead.

The reason they took to their feet was the sight of No.10 loosening limbs ahead of what could be his first home appearance since May 2016. Jack Wilshere was back.

The cheers reached a crescendo midway through the second half when the player they thought would never play for the club again, came on as a substitute for Alex Iwobi.

Would his wretched injury record take another torrid twist? Would he be woefully off the pace? Would he get sent off?

These and many other questions must have raced through the thoughts of both the player and spectators alike.

For this season really represents Wilshere’s last chance to salvage his career, certainly at Arsenal where he is out of contract next summer.

What followed was a sublime 25-minute cameo in which the Arsenal midfield suddenly started to tick over like a well-oiled machine, with Wilshere’s passing setting the tempo.

And his contribution to the third and final goal of Arsenal’s 3-1 comeback win exhibited skill and imagination both club and country have been craving for during his absence through repeated injury and a subsequent loss of form.

Now 25, the midfielder has been an Arsenal player since he was nine.

Forget Harry Kane at Tottenham – this guy really is one of their own.

The reaction and reception from Arsenal supporters showed they are desperate for the troubled star to succeed.

Wilshere spent last season on loan at Bournemouth in a bid to get regular football and earn a new contract and starting place at Arsenal.

He got the games but did not overly impress before sustaining a fractured leg in April, ironically in a challenge with Kane.

He returned to Arsenal for his rehabilitation but there was no contract offer to go with the fitness work.

Instead, he was continually linked with moves away from the club and was, reportedly, a West Ham transfer target.

Turkish teams also want him, but no longer Barcelona and Manchester City, who were keen to prise him away a few years ago when he was billed as the future of Arsenal and England.

Wilshere, understandably, seemed to be falling out of love with Arsenal just as the club were losing patience with him.

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Pictures of him enjoying a drink and cigarette were appearing too often in the media as well.

He removed reference to Arsenal from his Twitter account in another sign of a player not likely to stick around beyond this season, maybe not even January.

But having worked with him for a decade at first-team level, Arsène Wenger still cannot turn his back on a player who delights as much as he frustrates.

Speaking in the run-up to the Cologne, Wenger said: “I believe that first of all he has to continue to work with the spirit he works and focus.

“I believe as well there was always a huge pressure on him to come back as quickly as possible and to expect a lot.

“Overall, I think if he can combine the two, keep calm and focus on your job then he is on a good way for me.

“In training, he is getting stronger and stronger every day and that’s what we want from him.

“He has been injured at the start of the season from last season, so he was a bit behind the other players but now he is getting better and better.

“Every game is an opportunity for him and this season is a good opportunity for him as well.”

Wilshere was clearly moved by the response from the Arsenal supporters, he even made a positive return to social media.

His words indicated that he also sees his future at Arsenal too.

“Felt good to be back home in front of you amazing fans, thank you so much for an unbelievable reception! Just getting started.”

In Santi Cazorla’s continued injury absence a fit Wilshere is the player Arsenal need if they are to sustain any form of trophy pursuits this season.

The Europa League might just be the start of something big for Arsenal and their No.10

History warns them they should not be getting too excited, but, for now, at least, Jack is back.

Wilshere’s Woe

Before recovering from last season’s fracture, Wilshere has battled back from a series of injury problems.

2009: missed a month with an ankle problem, aged 17.

2010: Hamstring and minor back issues

2011: Ankle fracture in pre-season kept him out of entire season, including EURO 2012. Resumed playing in October 2012.

2013: Ended season requiring surgery following another ankle issue.

2014: Returned from injury at end of season to win FA Cup and make Brazil World Cup squad. Back in form, a challenge by Manchester United’s Paddy McNair in November resulted in another four months out.

2015: Broke a fibular in pre-season and did not play again until April.

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