Remember Michael Owen? The most talented and gifted English player of his generation? Or Yoann Gourcuff – the heir to Zinedine Zidane? Both players at some point took the world by storm until injuries hit; mostly due to being overplayed. Arsenal and England international Jack Wilshere is in danger of following their paths unless he isn’t managed properly.
The Arsenal number 10 is currently injured, and while reports about him being out for a long spell seem to be false, 21-year-old Wilshere must not be overplayed or risk becoming another talented but injury prone star.
The England international had his breakthrough season in 2010/2011 playing 49 games, but got injured for the whole of the following season. After returning and notching up 26 games – rarely unimpressive - Wilshere injured his ankle again and has a slim chance of returning for the final swing of games in May.
It’s a concern for Arsene Wenger as he must not risk playing Wilshere – a key part of Arsenal – if he isn’t 100%, potentially aggravating another injury. Another worrying aspect is Wilshere’s running style - labelled as “funny” by Arsenal legend Liam Brady. Wilshere’s physiology and running style has been reported to be a possible cause for his injuries.
James Dodd of talkSPORT recently said on Twitter that a former Premier League physio back in 2009 predicted Wilshere would suffer ankle problems due to his wide hips and running style, meaning the pressure on his ankles would lead to injuries.
Of course, Wilshere is a passionate footballer who wants to play every game for club and country. Just last month, The Mirror reported that he wanted to be given the “Lionel Messi treatment” – playing every game – but he could regret it soon. Look at Owen. After all, he wanted to play every game when he was younger and had the world at his feet, and now regrets it, retiring at the rather “not so old” age of 33.
“I will rest when I’m 40, I muttered in an interview. How wrong could I be? You can’t force nature and nature has certainly forced me to rest far more than I would have liked in the second half of my career.
The problem is that as a young player you want to play every week and therefore it has to be the responsibility of the manager to rest young players — thereby giving them the best chance of a long and injury-free career.
As a youngster, I was considered exceptional and in many ways that was to my detriment.
While I was playing every game available to me there was another young kid in the Liverpool academy called Steven Gerrard who was showing huge potential.
Unlike me, who was playing 80 games a season, Steve couldn’t stay fit. I am convinced that this was to his advantage in the long run. His body just needed time to grow into itself and at that time it couldn’t take the stresses and strains of football.
I was a little pocket rocket that lapped up games. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Because of this I would play a full season with Liverpool and then, when everyone else wrapped up their best youngsters on a summer break, I was playing for England, sometimes three years above my age group.
This continued for a few years. I played week in, week out, without a break for years.”
Another example is Gourcuff – with the world at his feet in 2009 having won Ligue 1, the Frenchman drew comparisons with Zidane, earning a lot of plaudits. However, the season before, he had only played 18 games for Milan before playing 49 games the next season in 2008/2009 – nearly triple the amount of games. This is said to be the cause for his injury proneness ever since, as the France international has now become one of the most injury prone players in the game.
As was the case for Gerrard as stated by Owen, Wilshere’s body needs time to grow into itself - Wilshere will be a world star no doubt; but he needs to be managed properly by Wenger and not be overplayed if he hopes to have a successful career.Published 28 Mar 2013, 11:46 IST