Jack Wilshere's Injury a Problem for Arsenal and England but Also an Opportunity

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

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Jack Wilshere is facing another lengthy layoff through injury, with the midfielder discovering on Thursday he has a fractured foot.

The Arsenal star sustained the injury early on in the international friendly for England against Denmark, though played on for another 50 minutes or so before being substituted by boss Roy Hodgson. Wilshere will be out for six weeks, as per BBC Sport, meaning he will miss games against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Bayern Munich.

Wilshere too brave for his own good with the challenge (in a friendly) and by going back on. But there were 14 outfield players on the bench

— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) March 6, 2014

It's certainly a blow for Arsenal to lose any player at this stage of the season, but it shouldn't be suggested that this will have such a negative impact for club or country, which could make a difference to the objectives of both over the coming months.


Arsenal's Loss...to a Point

True, Arsenal have lost a first-team midfielder. Wilshere is one of the Gunners' standout names and he is revered amongst the support base...but in truth, he hasn't been at his absolute best this season and the Gunners can absorb his absence. It's not as if they haven't needed cover for him before, after all.

I'm just amazed that the FA were actually able to find a bit of Jack Wilshere's foot, "which has not been previously injured."

— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) March 6, 2014

Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini is arguably both the more balanced and the more reliable pairing, this season at least, for the centre of the park, while an embarrassment of riches in the advanced midfield positions has often seen Wilshere stuck out on the flank to enable his presence in the team.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Even aside from those two, though, Arsenal have two other reasons to not be overly concerned by Wilshere's absence: Aaron Ramsey is due to be back in action within 10 days or so, and more interestingly, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown on several occasions of late that he could become a regular starter. 

Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Serge Gnabry are all varied and capable options for Arsene Wenger behind the forward. Wilshere will not be overly missed in the second line of attack.


Taking Chances to Create Chances

Of course, with injury comes debate. Club versus country is a tired, pointless argument now; right or wrong, midseason friendlies are a part of the game and having a fixture two months before the end of the season (and losing a player) is no more irksome than having a friendly four days before the eve of the new campaign and having a player get hurt.

Looks like Roy Hodgson put Wilshere's "resolve to the test" as he did with Sturridge against Germany. It backfired then too.

— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) March 6, 2014

With the World Cup fast looming, players want to be in the frame for an international spot.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05:  Raheem Sterling of England in action during the International Friendly match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on March 5, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Wilshere might have gotten injured, but Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana...these players will be happy to have been involved this time around and be pushing for a place in England's 23-man squad.

It's a risk playing big players as the trophy-filled part of the season comes into focus, yes, but without the game time being created at this point, certain players would not get the opportunity to push themselves forward as international candidates.


A Window of Opportunity for Club and Country

Speaking of opportunities, both England and Arsenal should now be seeing one in particular.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02:  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his first goal of Crystal Palace during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on February 2, 2014 in London, Eng
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Without Wilshere's aggression, forward-thinking running and creativity, now is the ideal time to fully integrate Oxlade-Chamberlain into the starting lineup every week—right in the heart of midfield.

His off-the-ball, direct running from that position against Crystal Palace was an indication of what he can add to Arsenal's midfield, while the pace he possesses brings them something sorely lacking of late: an ability to drive behind opposition defences from deeper starting positions, dragging play up the field and stretching rivals' defences.

It would be understandable for Wenger to not want to start Oxlade-Chamberlain in the centre in all the big games coming up, but he deserves to be in the side. The youngster brings plenty of attributes that the side lacks at present, not least of all a goal threat, and even if he starts from a wing position initially, a transition to centre midfield in-game or within a few matches' time is one which should be embraced by all.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of England runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium on August 14, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It's also a move which England should be keeping an interested eye on with regards to options and variety in the World Cup squad.

Wilshere should still have three weeks or so to prove his form and fitness after recovering from his latest injury, but in the meantime, both his club and his country have a chance to turn a difficult situation into an advantage.