Arsenal FC: Where Do Wilshere and Walcott Fit in Returning from Injury?

Matthew Celentano@@Gunner_NYCFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Petr Cech of Chelsea looks dejected as Theo Walcott of Arsenal (14) celebrates with Jack Wilshere of Arsenal as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on January 20, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Arsenal's surge for the top four is on.

Since the calamity of losing 2-1 at White Hart Lane and slipping further behind Spurs and Chelsea in the table, the Gunners have looked like a different team, restoring pride with a 2-0 win at Bayern Munich in the Champions League before winning their next three Premier League matches.

Now just two points behind fourth-placed Spurs, who have played an game extra, and two points behind third-placed Chelsea, if Arsenal win their game in hand (a tricky home encounter with Everton) they'll move above their North London rivals into fourth place.

But with both Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott injured, Arsenal's recent push for the top four has come courtesy of unexpected heroes.

Gervinho, a player whose confidence seemed to be at rock bottom following endless criticism from fans following his terrible form earlier this season, has been the driving force of Arsenal's attack in recent weeks down the right wing, grabbing two goals and three assists in his last three games.

Whether or not Gervinho has a future in North London remains to be seen—to play devil's advocate here, a few poor games and bad misses can change everything. After all, his performances at the start of the season were encouraging before the former Lille man's form completely plummeted.

Putting his Arsenal future aside, Gervinho is doing exactly what you would want a squad player to do. Having been forced out of the starting lineup earlier in the season, he's now seizing his chance in the first team and proving with his performances that he deserves to remain in the starting XI.

Another player who has been crucial to the Gunners' good form is Tomas Rosicky. It's such a shame that injuries have prevented him from having the career that he deserves, because when the Czech international is fit, his quality his glaringly obvious.

Not only was it Rosicky's brace that saw Arsenal edge out West Brom this weekend in a 2-1 win, but his energetic play, in general, has added a new dimension to Arsenal's play, seen especially in the 4-1 win over Reading and that 2-0 win in Munich.

With Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere set to return for the match against Norwich next weekend, it's tough to see where they'll fit in the team.

Now, these are two players who have been key to Arsenal all season. Theo Walcott is the team's top scorer this campaign with 18 goals in all competitions, while Jack Wilshere has been incredible since returning from injury back in October. But with players like Gervinho and Rosicky stepping up, the pair of England internationals certainly won't be walking into the team.

So, what should Arsene Wenger do?

Let's start with Jack Wilshere. As long as it doesn't mean moving Santi Cazorla to the left wing, Wilshere deserves to keep his spot in the team upon returning from injury.

Cazorla is Arsenal's best attacking player, it's as simple as that, and he needs to be involved with everything and at the heart of every move—that can only happen from a center attacking midfield position, not the wings. This means the midfield triangle of Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will resume, and that can only mean good things as it's Arsenal's strongest midfield combination.

What does this mean for Tomas Rosicky though? In my opinion, the Czech simply has to stay in the team—his performances warrant it. The only place for him to play is the left wing. He's played there in the past, so as long as he's allowed to drift inside and have the same freedom about his game, the change in position shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Then there's Theo Walcott, who has a completely different situation than Jack Wilshere's. Despite his goal tally, the 23-year-old wasn't exactly in flying form prior to his injury, not having scored since January 30. 

So do you show faith in Walcott and play him, dropping the in-form Gervinho to the bench, or keep Gervinho in the team at the expense of Theo Walcott?

I say keep Gervinho in the team. For the first time in a while, the Ivorian seems to be enjoying his football, and dropping him to the bench when he's at his best would only be a shot to his confidence. This should be a form-based decision, not a reputation-based one—Gervinho is simply in better form than Walcott. If I were Arsene Wenger, I'd bring Theo Walcott on in the second half and see how he plays then.

Ultimatums like this are exactly what Arsenal need, and it's these types of selection headaches that any manager relishes having. The Gunners' squad depth has looked abysmal at times this season, but it's only a good thing that they now seem to have some rotational options heading into the final, and most important stretch of the season.


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