Jack Wilshere is stepping up his efforts to make a return to action before the end of the season as he continues his recovery from a broken foot suffered in the international friendly victory over Denmark earlier this month, but he is not setting a date for a potential comeback just yet.
The Arsenal midfielder fractured his foot in a tackle with Liverpool defender Daniel Agger at Wembley, and despite playing on for over 40 minutes, he was revealed to have suffered the injury that required him to wear a protective boot.
Having got the ok to remove the boot, Wilshere has begun training on a running machine and exercise bike in accordance with the club’s physios, and while he is yet to return to first team training, the Gunners remain cautiously optimistic of seeing the England international return before the end of the season.
A comeback would not only boost Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top-four – recent performances have suggested otherwise – but increase his own chances of playing a key role in England’s World Cup campaign in Brazil, with his participation put in to jeopardy with the latest injury.
Arsenal players who could leave the Emirates this summer
Arsenal players who could leave the Emirates this summer
1/8 Lukasz Fabianski
The Pole looks set to end his frustrating spell with the Gunners having spent the bulk of his time in north London as an understudy. Having joined the club in 2007 from Legia Warsaw, Fabianski has made just 31 Premier League appearances, having seen firstly Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann ahead of him before his compatriot Wojciech Szczesny took over between the sticks at the Emirates. Despite brief chances to make his first-team claim, injury and costly mistakes has seen Arsene Wenger lose patience with the 28-year-old, and he is likely to try and resurrect his career elsewhere.
2/8 Bacary Sagna
The biggest name who looks likely to leave the Emirates this season after contract negotiations reportedly broke down between the club and the Frenchman. Wenger’s policy to offer over-30’s a one-year extension only looks set to rob him of yet another experienced player, having seen players such as Robert Pires head for pastures new when contract talks broke down. Carl Jenkinson has shown potential that he can step up and replace Sagna, but his development is far from complete and would see one of Arsenal’s stronger positions severely weakened.
3/8 Nicklas Bendtner
The frustrating figure that is Nicklas Bendtner has looked happier at Arsenal this season than in recent years, but he is almost certain to be allowed to leave after failing to fulfil his promise that saw him held in such high esteem by Wenger back in 2004. Stints away from the club haven’t produced much in terms of success in front of goal, and Wenger’s desire to bring in a new striker looks to be the final nail in his almost buried Gunners coffin.
4/8 Kim Kallstrom
Kallstrom was Wenger’s surprise January signing, having moved to sign the Swedish international on deadline day on a loan until the end of the season. Arsenal fans got an even bigger surprise – not to mention an unwelcomed one – the following day when the 31-year-old was immediately ruled out for six weeks with an existing back injury. His stay is not expected to continue beyond the summer.
5/8 Emiliano Viviano
Brought in to provide competition with Szczesny and Fabianski, Viviano was one of Wenger’s few summer signings having been acquired on a season-long loan deal with a view to a permanent move. But the Italian has failed to make a single appearance this season, and looks likely to return to Palermo when his deal expires – although there is a hefty £5m clause to make the move permanent on top of the £1m paid for the initial loan.
6/8 Thomas Vermaelen
The Arsenal club captain is contracted until 2015, but he has spent the bulk of the past two seasons on the bench as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have struck up a formidable partnership. Despite admitting he is happy at the Emirates, he has confirmed that he will look at the situation if he remains out of favour. Having burst onto the Premier League when he joined the club in 2009, injury hampered the Belgian and he soon fell out of favour when Koscielny joined Mertesackker in the heart of the defence.
7/8 Lukas Podolski
The German’s run-out against Sunderland on the weekend was just the fifth time in his Arsenal career that Podolski has completed 90 minutes. While he exuberates the feel-good atmosphere currently surrounding the Gunners squad, and is part of an ever-growing number of Germans under Wenger’s guidance, he could lose patience with his inconsistency when it comes to first team selection.
8/8 Arsene Wenger
The manager himself is yet to commit to a new contract, and while his extension is expected imminently (it may already be a case of deal-done) he future cannot be made clear until an announcement is made. A collapse during their difficult March schedule could see a new contract thrown into jeopardy.
Wilshere posted a picture of himself and team-mate Benik Afobe at a Drake concert on Wednesday, in which the 22-year-old appeared to be holding a pint of beer, but the club have not made an issue out of the matter and are believed to be relaxed over the trip to London’s O2 Arena.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger confirmed on Friday that Wilshere requires more time, and refused to elaborate on when a potential comeback could be pencilled in the diary, but it is thought that a return for the final three matches of the season could be possible providing his rehabilitation goes smoothly.
Wenger did reveal that Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey will be the first of Arsenal’s growing injury concerns to return to training, and he has not given up hope of making a return in time for the FA Cup semi-final against holders Wigan on April 12.
Ramsey suffered a second setback in his recovery from a thigh strain – “a muscular injury” as Wenger put it today – and has not featured since Boxing Day after picking up the injury in the 3-1 win over West Ham. Ramsey’s absence can be linked with Arsenal’s downturn in form, and with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott also ruled out long-term, the Gunners are visibly lacking a turn of pace in their side.
Should the Wembley semi-final prove too soon for Ramsey, Wenger will be hoping to call on the midfield maestro for the season run-in, with Everton breathing down the Gunners’ neck in the race for fourth place.
But Wenger believes that if the Toffees can be linked with a charge for fourth, Arsenal can still catch the three sides in front of them – although the crunch fixture at Goodison Park on April 6 could go a long way in determining both of those scenarios.
“Everybody speaks about Everton coming back on us (to challenge for fourth place),” said Wenger. “Why should we then not come back on the teams who are in front of us?
“There’s still a lot of turning games that will happen until the end of the season. But it's down to the quality of our performances. We don't think about the title race now, we think about winning again and (this week's results) show you how small the differences are between the Premier League teams.”