After 16 months out, can Jack Wilshere return to spark misfiring Arsenal into life?

Wenger is convinced the England midfielder will make full recovery, but must decide if return against QPR is too soon

The calls for Jack Wilshere to be recalled after a 16-month lay-off through injury will reach a crescendo tomorrow. After two dispiriting defeats and an acrimonious club AGM, Arsenal need a lift when they face QPR at the Emirates and the England midfielder is precisely the man.

Arsène Wenger's team were witless in the middle as they suffered serious setbacks against Norwich City and Schalke, barely creating a single good goal-scoring chance in 180 minutes of slow, ponderous play.

Wilshere has just completed another full game for the Arsenal Under-21s and would be the perfect antidote, adding creative coherence and renewed hope for disgruntled fans. Wenger appears more inclined to use the 20-year-old off the bench after his ankle, heel and knee problems, saying only yesterday: "I have to consider him. We'll make a decision tomorrow."

But the potential impact Wilshere could make if he feels fit enough and is given enough time should not be underestimated. With his dancing feet and his Gascoigne-burst, the midfielder can set the angles and tempo of attack in a period when Santi Cazorla has been swamped and the team blunted.

As good as Aaron Ramsey's touch and vision are, Wilshere is so much more assertive. Not many English players combine bravery with technical skill, but Wilshere is perhaps the most obvious to do so since Wayne Rooney.

"They are similar types, yes," said Wenger. "Jack is a guy you can give balls to, to create openings with his passing."

If Wilshere returns, it will feel like a very different one from that in which he last played. Before his first ankle injury, in that collapsing end of the 2010-11 season, Arsenal still had Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song. The main men now are Mikel Arteta and Cazorla, neither of whom Wilshere has played with.

Wenger, though, was relaxed about Wilshere's ability to adjust. "Good players like to play with each other," he said last week. "Cazorla came here and, straight away, after 10 minutes training everybody understood he is a great player. So the easiest way to find good combinations is to play together."

Such a long absence could cause unforeseen problems but Wilshere has been making good progress, improving with each appearance.

Having returned to training in mid-September, Wilshere played 62 tiring minutes at the Hawthorns on 1 October. A week later, he played 74 minutes for the under-21s against Reading at Barnet and was much better, making both goals in a 2-0 win.

Emmanuel Frimpong, Wilshere's best friend at Arsenal, joked after the West Bromwich Albion game that he had kicked Wilshere in training to toughen him up. "He might have done at that stage," said the reserves coach Terry Burton. "But I'm not sure he's going to catch him now."

Since then Wilshere has played 90 minutes in a friendly against Chelsea and then on Monday afternoon, in a 2-1 win at Everton when he was again involved in both goals. He was booked too, and while everyone would rather tackles were clean, his fearlessness is something Arsenal need more of.

By last Friday Wenger said that Wilshere was tackling with all his old enthusiasm. "We even have to calm him down," he said. "He goes for every challenge and has no apprehension."

Fear, the Frenchman insists, simply will not be a factor. "If you protect the ball and somebody tackles you from behind and kills your knee, when you come back it will be difficult to protect the ball in the same position," Wenger said. "Jack has none of that. He has not been injured in a specific tackle." And asked if Wilshere can fully recover, Wenger said: "It is not possible, it is certain. He will be a better player. If you have this kind of injury at the age of 20 you will take off again and move forward normally. At his age it is no problem."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there