Has there been a club in recent years that has suffered worse luck with career-defining injuries?
Arsenal have had some gems on their hands, but the rough deal of lady luck has seen those gems robbed of us. Their talent that was destined to leave a lasting mark on the game, instead ended with a whisper.
Abou Diaby. Eduardo. Tomas Rosicky – three players who were at the front of the queue when talent was being doled out – and bad luck.
But arguably, there was one player who had his fate at the zenith of football stolen from him thanks to injury. A player who could have been spoken of as one of the best in the era.
The former England, Arsenal, West Ham, Bournemouth, Bolton and Aarhus midfielder recently announced his retirement and took up the prestigious U18 coaching post at his beloved London Colney.
And we aren’t here to talk about when Jack made his presence felt amongst the elite against Barcelona. We all know that story.
This blog is here to ask – is Jack’s story one of the biggest robberies in our modern history?
Let’s face it, when Jack broke into our first team and began dancing his way through midfield into the final third, it wasn’t just Gooners who were marvelling at him.
Predicted future England team’s revolved around him. Pundits lavished praise and pushed forward suggested career trajectories akin to Rooney, Beckham and Owen. The sky was the limit.
Jack’s legs had other ideas though.
In between injuries, Jack would make sporadic appearances, but with every injury, his influence shrunk. That dynamic ball-getter who would carry the team’s forward impetus on his back? It took a back seat. His passing became more defined, but his ability to get the crowd on their feet happened less in each game.
Wilshere picked up 16 separate injuries in the rest of his tenure at Arsenal as a player – eight of them suffered on the same troublesome ankle. Jack managed just four seasons in the Premier League in our colours where he amassed more than 20 appearances.
Going from being complimented by the likes of Xavi, Pep Guardiola, Marco Reus and Bastian Schweinsteiger and running the show for Arsenal on the European stage, Wilshere in the last two years of his career was in the football wilderness. Struggling to find a club because everyone knew that Wilshere’s injuries couldn’t allow a decent return on any form of investment.
Jack played in pivotal moments for Arsenal and still left an indelible impression on us all. This is not a lamenting article to say his career was a wasted one.
But given his talent – the heights he scaled should have seen him ranked amongst the best in the business.
‘What if’ questions are a favourite amongst us all. What if we had held out for the last 13 minutes in Paris in 2006? What if Eduardo hadn’t been injured against Birmingham? What if Wenger had been given a bigger budget instead of hamstrung in the last decade of his tenure?
But surely the biggest ‘what if’ of all, is “What if Jack had avoided injury?
For Gooners, we know that our club would have lifted far more than we did, if a fully-fit Jack had been in the eleven.