Two games can’t be further poles apart. In Jack Wilshire’s case it demarcates lethargy and agility. Last few weeks provided references of the old adage in abundance, ‘you are as good as your last game.’
Wilshire’s performance barring the goal that accrued a precious point for Arsene Wenger few weeks ago at The Hawthorns was pedestrian at best. Maybe it had dices of tenacity and steely fortitude to never wave the white flag embedded in it, but the countenance that cameras are positioned to take hold of, his overall play, lacked timing, forward predicting and fluidity. The Wilshire, fans came to know as the man who has free timing on the ball has been missing for quite some time now.
While the goal masked the lack of match practice for a second, it was evident where his pauses lied. He was caught on the ball by a barging set of Baggies time after time, being tackled relentlessly to the floor and having to agonize while the play went on. It must have been a different playing field for a man used to jump over tackles and storm into the business area unshackled.
This is where match fitness plays its part.
Continuous football makes you drilled for the occasion, makes you sense the tackle before it flies in and importantly instils a sense of forward thinking that makes you fearless. Arsenal’s no 10 is slowly getting there. Considering the symphony he, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud orchestrated against Norwich he has fastened his seat belts.
That’s a testament to the man he’s mentored under, Wenger knows how to keep faith in his players.
In that spectrum, Wilshire is an emblem. Wenger must not have been impressed by the leaked pictures of his protégé smoking. More controversy was to follow as the sun set on Adnan Januzaj’s availability befuddled Wilshire to speak his heart.
As psychology goes, when you are not in the best position in life and you have something to prove or in Wilshire’s case something to regain which he has lost due to swathes on injuries for nearly two years, a question provides you with an avenue. An avenue of vulnerability. An avenue of forthrightness. An avenue that makes you want to show hypothetically that you haven’t lost anything which public opinion says or your performances have indicated.
There were signs during England’s qualifier against Poland that the skills were slowly returning.
The culmination of everything was the supreme team goal that ensued which many pundits have bracketed as a goal of the year contender and even one of the best open play goals scored in the Premier League. Wilshire was cherry picked for greatness and the heir to the armband for England in the probable near future not for nothing.
That blowing hot and cold nature again crept in during the Dortmond game where he had to scamper, survive niggles and was substituted ultimately for lacking impact. Against Crystal Palace, Wenger tested another facet of his to err on the side of caution and he adopted.
Now he’s back on the sidelines again. It’s the ankle that continues to thwart his attempts to push on but the seriousness of the injury is far less. Soon he’ll start to completely evade tackles, pick out passes and penetrate the game from deep midfield for the maestros upfront to pounce. It took Aaron Ramsey three years to completely shake off his demons.
In the theatre of football, match fitness means everything. Smooth integration will see Wilshire return to full fitness slowly and surely. And that’s something to wait in anticipation and hope for. Because lo and behold, there aren’t many finer sights in world football than a fit Wilshire.