The hottest prospect in the EPL is back, and he’s looking rather grizzly. That’s right people, Cap’n Jack is back. With his return, he brings a lot to an already packed midfield. I’ll be the first to say that I won’t expect anything of him for at least a month or two. After such a long-term injury, no one knows how he’ll fare. It’s unfortunate that what happened to him was avoidable (and partially his fault) but such is football. All we have to look at now is what he brings to the team. Jack played around 50 matches in 2010/11. That’s astounding for a then 18/19-year-old. Our young charge must be lauded for his discipline, fitness work and talent to achieve such a high level of consistency, considering he was breaking into a midfield amongst some of the best in the world, as a teenager no less.
After being stretchered off against Thierry’s NYRB, there didn’t seem to be much cause for concern. He was expected to return in September. September of last year, that is. Continuous uncertainty quickly became the theme of his curious medical case, to which no one could diagnose definitively for weeks. Eventually, the club moved on without the young talisman, yet still carried the scar of a band-aid that was ripped off far too slowly. Since his days of playing time have long passed, our midfield has seen a massive overhaul. He no longer starts alongside the likes of Fabregas, Nasri and Song. He now has the task of gelling with Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and the magician that is Santi Cazorla. Even he certainly won’t have an easy task of nailing down a starting spot, with all three positions currently being filled extremely well. You’d have to feel that Abou Diaby is first up on the chopping block however, as he’s just easing back into form and fitness himself. He’s also the largest liability for reasons that are far beyond the scope of this article. Ideally, we’d see Mikel Arteta and Jack fight for a spot, but in excluding one or the other you sacrifice immense quality. For the first month or so, don’t expect much change, but as Jack gets sharper, he creeps further up on our first teamers. If I were to pick a first choice trio, it would be Cazorla, Diaby, Wilshere. This is mainly due to balance, and in no way meant to be harsh on Areta. As mentioned before, it should be Arteta and Jack fighting for a spot if that’s where he’s meant to play. Should Arsène see Jack fit for a more attacking role, we could see Cazorla pushed out to the right-wing. It makes perfect sense on the face of things, with the strongest evidence being Jack’s acquisition of the #10 shirt.
Why I’m most excited for his return is it allows us to experiment and rotate far more often. Think of all the midfielders we have at the moment, excluding wingers. Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Abou Diaby, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey. That’s quite a talented and versatile lineup to work with in the middle of the park. Our team is dynamic, and the amount of players available to choose reflects that. Jack coming back is more than a short morale boost, but a testament to our versatility and strength in-depth. We’ve lost many a key player over the last few seasons, but the Arsenal soldiers on. Having Jack back as another loyal recruit only makes us stronger.