Jack Wilshere finally returns after 16 painful months in the shadows


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The Independent Football

Jack Wilshere will be in Arsenal's squad for today's game at Norwich City and could make his first-team return after 16 months out injured.

The midfielder has been out from ankle and knee injuries since the end of the 2010-11 season. He had played twice for Arsenal Under-21s earlier this month before completing 90 minutes of a friendly behind closed doors earlier this week.

Yesterday morning Arsène Wenger predicted a return in the Capital One Cup game at Reading in 10 days' time but a good training session made an impression and now the midfielder is set to be on the bench at Carrow Road this afternoon.

Wenger said yesterday that because Wilshere's injury was a stress fracture rather than from a bad tackle, he would have no psychological block or fear of contact. Comparing Wilshere to Eduardo, who broke his leg in a tackle in 2008 and was never same again, Wenger was confident about the youngster's return.

"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. "People may not notice but many times the player does not get in that position where he has been vulnerable.

"The second problem with Eduardo was that he has a restriction of his ankle movement, which is a massive problem for a football player. Jack has none of that – he has not been injured in a specific tackle."

Wilshere's last first-team game was England's 2-2 draw with Switzerland at Wembley on 4 June 2011. His last competitive game for Arsenal was the 2-2 draw at Fulham on 22 May 2011, though he did feature briefly in the Emirates Cup that July before being forced off with injury.

Wilshere is used to playing in Arsenal midfields with Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song but Wenger was confident he would quickly find understanding with Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. "Because good players like to play with each other," Wenger said.

Speaking before training, Wenger said that match fitness was the only area where the 20-year-old was lacking. "One is the apprehension to go into challenges when you have too many injuries," he explained. "On that front we are at 100 per cent. We even have to calm him down. He goes for every challenge and has no apprehension. Then you have the physical front – he is OK there. Then you have the match fitness – he is 80 per cent."