The decision to leave Jack Wilshire out of England’s squad for the U21 European Championships this summer is seen as a victory for Arsene Wenger and common sense by some.
Wilshire has indeed played a lot of football this year – in fact Wenger has been loath to omit Wilshire at all this season, racking up 4018 minutes in all competitions over 51 senior games. This figure includes three appearances for his country, with an inevitable fourth against Switzerland next month – surely no one would begrudge Wilshire a summer of relaxation and recuperation, especially if you fast forward 12 months. If he is close to burning out this season, next season should finish the job.
With a pre-season tour of Asia pencilled in for Arsenal in July, Wilshire will return to domestic duties in August, with Arsenal expected to challenge on four fronts once again. Further international fixtures against Holland, Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro are also scheduled for the first few months of the season, with more to be expected in the New Year. The regular season draws to a close on 13th May, with the Champions League final the following Saturday in Munich, the European Championships then commence four weeks later in Poland and Ukraine. With England almost certain to qualify and Wilshire likely to feature heavily, he faces up to six games, depending on progress, with the final on 1st July.
The political hot potato that is the Great Britain Olympic football team compete between July 25th and August 11th, which could involve a further half dozen games, conveniently ending just as another league campaign begins. Something will clearly have to give and it is likely that the debate surrounding the Olympics will intensify as the season progresses, as clubs dig in their heels in defence of their prize assets. Where most countries are used to losing their star performers for this competition, it may prove to be a baptism of fire on these shores with conflict between home nations, Team GB and affected clubs inevitable.
Despite being 40 months older and more physically mature than Wilshire, Javier Hernandez should provide an interesting frame of reference, having featured in four matches at last summer’s World Cup, a further 53 games this season over 3108 minutes, including 5 long-haul return flights to represent Mexico. Having played a full 90 minutes in the Champions League final, Chicharito will jet off to the United States for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which commences on June 5th and could involve up to six games before ending on June 25th. The Copa America will kick off the following week in Argentina, running from July 1st with a further half dozen possible games over the following three weeks, leaving a whole two weeks to prepare for the Community Shield on 7th August.
Hernandez may well be able to summon the super-human effort required to endure the incredible amount of football expected of him, but the long term affect may not become apparent for some time. Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen to return ‘Little Pea’ to Manchester in one piece and Arsene Wenger will be an interested spectator, having won the battle, with the war still to come.