It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.
I know, images appearing in posts, Oscar Wilde one day, John Cleese the next. Your whole world is turning upside down. That line from Clockwise encapsulates the emotions of a football fan or if you are Jack Wilshere, a footballer. This morning sees more optimism about the youngster’s fitness. The only thing that can be said for certain about his injury is that predictions about his return to the Arsenal side have been greatly over-estimated previously. This morning sees a downgrading of his absence from Christmas to the end of October. I do not recall seeing anything from the club which suggested a race between Wilshere and Santa to see who got here first, just newspaper speculation but to be honest, I have deliberately not paid much attention to such utterances, so wrong have the precursors been.
At his age, it might have been realistic to expect him to have appeared for some time in the Under-21 Premier League which started this weekend. Arsenal won their first game 3 – 1 against Bolton and the competition has been largely well-received. I wonder though if it will just slip under the radar of most once the initial media interest has dwindled? There was a time when reserve matches were competitive, used as a way of keeping match fitness in the squad, a stepping stone in returning players from injury as well as punishing miscreants; a week or two in the ‘the stiffs’ was enlightening for some players. However, even the Football Combination ceased to be relevant to clubs as the 80s turned into the 90s, the Premier League killing it off. Let’s hope that this time, they are more successful in breathing life into an idealistic but potentially beneficial notion.
The first hints that Arsène is feeling optimistic about the Wilshere’s return came when discussing the sale of Alex Song at the weekend. The manager was at pains to point out that Wilshere was one of a number of solutions to filling the void of the now-departed Cameroonian international. Relations between the club and ex-player have been soured by the press briefings which have gone on, despite the official site thanking him for his service and wishing him well, the latter pointedly omitted for the ex-captain. Team Song has told the world that they tried to renegotiate the player’s contract six times last season. I need to get my head around this; a contract that expires in 2015, six times, urgency. Hmmm. Barcelona might indeed have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for the player but the cynic in me is drawn to the conclusion that the only reason they wanted to renegotiate is to draw more money from the Catalan well.
Certainly the midfield is well-stocked if players are fit but we know from experience that it is a rare moment indeed that this happens. In fact I cannot remember a time when Arsène ever had a full quota to choose from. To put matters into perspective, if Abou Diaby manages 32 minutes on the pitch at The Britannia this weekend, he will have played more football in the opening two games of this season than last. It underlines that whilst the cynicism over Diaby’s fitness is cruel, it is based in fact.
There are of course, other options for the manager although depending upon whom you believe, those options are here, there and everywhere. Rennes are trying to create an auction for Yann M’vila’s services by claiming that they have received three bids from other clubs for the player. A lot of speculation has surrounded Arsenal’s interest, also that of Tottenham – who knows, maybe M’vila has a bridge club on a Wednesday night and Europa League football fits in with that. Whether Arsenal will fill the Song void with him remains to be seen. It is curious that two deals seem to be brewing at the same time, the conclusion being that one is a back-up plan and I suspect M’vila is that option.
The other – Nuri Sahin – is trundling along. Some claimed it would be a done deal yesterday, even photoshopping the player onto Giroud’s signing photos at London Colney. Rumours abound that he was or was not seen at Shenley and that he may or may not be there today to seal the deal. Unlikely bedfellows, The Heil and The Guardian, both claim that there is a stumbling block which is significant. They seem to think that the permanent option was the problem but I suspect that The Special One is twisting it slightly so that he is the permanent option…