Where Arsenal Turns After Another Wilshere Injury

Jack Wilshere has gone under the knife once more (for another ankle injury), with The Guardian reporting that he’ll miss at least three months while recovering. Surgery was successful, but Arsenal is once again without one of its most promising and capable midfield options for the foreseeable future, and there’s a great deal of understandable frustration. Since showing so much potential at a young age, Wilshere has struggled to stay active for a long enough period of uninterrupted time to make the impact he’s capable of. But Wilshere’s promise and future aside, times just became tougher for the Gunners.

So how will Arsenal replace Wilshere and stay in (or at least near) contention in the next few months? Here’s a quick look ahead.

The immediate future from a fixtures standpoint may actually be quite manageable. This weekend’s match, which is away against Stoke City, is a very winnable contest that could see the Gunners move into the top four. The Betfair statistical preview of the match notes a number of trends that could work in Arsenal’s favour (and which don’t depend on Wilshere’s presence). Perhaps most relevant is the fact that Stoke have lost their past three EPL games, and are coming up against an Arsenal attack that’s reaching its potential. It’s either that or they have at least figured out how to score late in games. Following this game, the Gunners will face Newcastle, Liverpool, QPR, and West Ham (as well as Galatasaray in a Champions League Group Stage match). It’s not the easiest December schedule, but it’s devoid of any particularly ominous fixtures such as a contest against Man City, Chelsea, or Man Utd.

As for how Arsenal will look to replace Jack Wilshere on the field for the next three months, the picture is somewhat murkier. The immediate answer for who subs in for Wilshere appears to be Santi Cazorla. He not only filled in immediately following the injury in the Man Utd. match, but he also put in full days of work in a 2-0 Champions League win over Dortmund and this week’s 1-0 league win over Southampton. Bleacher Report took a tactical look at how Cazorla can benefit from Wilshere’s absence, essentially suggesting that his skill set, so long as he has freedom to operate in the middle of the field, can combine the talents of Wilshere, fellow injured midfielder Mesut Ozil, and Aaron Ramsey. That analysis is a bit of a stretch, but given Cazorla’s creativity and ability to handle, it makes sense as an optimistic outlook. At any rate, many supporter
s view Cazcorla as a capable fill-in, with the real issue being the impact on the club’s depth.

Should the club look for more than a temporary fill-in, however, there have already been some interesting rumours surfacing. To begin with, there’s the tantalizing idea that Thierry Henry could return for a farewell tour with the Gunners following his departure from the New York Red Bulls. However, that bears no connection to Wilshere’s injury or return. Really, the most interesting idea out there is Arsenal’s reported interest in Newcastle standout Moussa Sissoko, who’s having an outstanding campaign. Various sources are suggesting Arsenal is preparing a bid this January for the talented midfielder.

Really, where the club goes from here is anybody’s guess. One hopes that Wilshere remains part of the long-term future in London. The latest injury casts some doubt, though, not only on this season but on the years to come. Cazorla will be a capable replacement for the time being, and he should help the Gunners through a manageable December stretch. Still, there may well be bigger changes on the horizon.

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