It felt inevitable in the end, but Arsène Wenger's announcement on Monday that Jack Wilshere will not be fit in time to play at the European Championship this summer poses some fundamental questions for the new England manager – whoever that might be.
Wilshere has only five England caps, but you would be forgiven for thinking it was 50, given the importance with which he had come to be regarded in the team by this time last year.
Last year Wilshere started the two March internationals, the 2-0 win over Wales in Cardiff, a Euro 2012 qualifier, and the friendly against Ghana at Wembley. By the time the home Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland came around it was the then 19-year-old who was the driving force behind England overcoming a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2, winning the penalty for the first goal.
Wilshere was, Fabio Capello hoped, the closest thing England had to one of the Spanish maestros, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Indeed, he had been exceptional against Barcelona over the two Champions League ties in which Arsenal were eliminated last season.
By last summer it was no exaggeration to say that the burden on Wayne Rooney as the team's most creative player was somewhat lifted by Wilshere's presence.
Wilshere is recovering from a stress fracture to his ankle and then an Achilles injury. With him out of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, what now?
There is no replacement for Wilshere. There is the old guard of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick. There is the old, new guard (Parker) and the young, old guard (James Milner, who is preferred in a wider position). Jack Rodwell and Tom Huddlestone are both injured. Jordan Henderson does not look ready yet. Phil Jones has played predominantly in defence for Manchester United.
The new England manager may wish to take a risk and opt for Leon Britton, the 29-year-old Londoner who has never been capped by the England Under-21s but, according to the statistics, completes more passes for Swansea than Xavi does for Barcelona. It would be a bold move at this late stage of the game.
Wilshere is young and he will have many more tournaments for England. In all likelihood he may even be captain one day. Only just 20, he's not yet irreplaceable. Having said that, there are hardly alternatives in abundance.
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