Ian Wright: 'Long-term injuries a nightmare you live every minute'

By Ian WrightMOTD pundit
Match of the Day

It seems to have become fair game to ridicule the likes of Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere or Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge for being injured a lot - and almost to suggest they break down on purpose.

But I don't think the people who criticise them can understand what those players are going through, or appreciate the mental strength you need when you are out long-term or suffering from a recurring problem.

I was lucky enough to avoid too many serious lay-offs during my own career but I saw how hard it was for my team-mates, especially when they were labelled as being sidelined too easily when all they were trying to do was get fit.

I have never met a player who wanted to be injured - and when you are out for a long time it becomes a nightmare that you live every minute of every day.

Nothing to be happy about, even seeing your wife and kids

Jack Wilshere has only played in 36% of Arsenal's games in all competitions since the start of the 2011-12 season.

The life of an injured player is not an enjoyable one and it is hard to escape the feeling of being down.

It is frustrating to watch everybody else train day after day when you are nowhere near being able to do it yourself, so you need people to talk to and help cheer you up.

Jack has just started training again and he has already talked about how it helped him having other Arsenal players with long-term injuriesexternal-link - like Danny Welbeck or Tomas Rosicky - in rehab with him.

He will have needed a similar support network at home, too. When you are there you are still injured and still thinking about it the whole time.

There is nothing to be happy about, even when you see your wife and kids, because you just want to be playing football.

It is nice when you get fans wishing you well and asking when you are back, but all it takes is one idiot to say something like "Arsenal don't need you" and you are depressed again.

It is easy to feel like you want to give up and, to get through it, you need your family and close friends away from football.

They are the ones who keep you going during the weeks and months when you need it most.

Injuries are eating into Wilshere's career

Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere
Wilshere has not played this season because of a fractured fibula. He missed the whole of the 2011-12 season because of an ankle problem and, in total, has lost over two years of his career to injury

It is a huge boost for Arsenal that Wilshere is close to a comeback because, when he gets fit, he will have a big part to play in their Premier League title push.

But the main reason I am delighted to hear about his progress is the lift it will give him personally, because of what he has been through.

Jack has not played at all for Arsenal this season because of a fractured fibula, after working all summer to get fit following his ankle problems.

He only turned 24 at the start of January so he is still a young player but, when you add up his injuries, you can see how much they are eating into his career.

In total, he has only played 36% of Arsenal's games in all competitions since the start of the 2011-12 season, and he has lost over two years to various injuries.

But I know him well enough to have always believed he would get through each setback.

Jack Wilshere has played in 23 of England's 53 games since the start of the 2011-12 season - 43.3%
Wilshere has played in 23 of England's 53 games since the start of the 2011-12 season - 43.3%

I think he will come back stronger this time and, with Arsenal top of the table and Euro 2016 on the horizon, he has got a hell of a lot to play for.

The Gunners are doing well without him, of course, but he has not been forgotten about. The talk is about what difference he can make in the run-in.

With the way Arsene Wenger has been setting up his team, Jack would slot right into central midfield, next to either Francis Coquelin or Mohamed Elneny.

The statistics show Arsenal actually did better without Wilshere when he was out last season, but that is just a reflection on when the team hit form rather than his ability. With Santi Cazorla out injured, he is going to have a big role to play.

Arsenal with/without Wilshere 2014-15
WithPremier LeagueWithout
28.6%Win %75%
1.3Points per game2.4

It is unfair to tell Sturridge to play through the pain

Daniel Sturridge has played in 26% of Liverpool's games in all competitions since the start of the 2014-15 season

I am glad that Wilshere has not been rushed back into action because the amount of time he has taken to get himself right will hopefully mean that, if he does break down, he will not be out for so long again.

In contrast, Sturridge seems to be coming under pressure at Liverpool to play even if he is carrying a knock.

He has also missed a lot of football in recent months - he has suffered 18 separate injuries since he moved to Anfield in January 2013 and only played in 26% of Liverpool's games in all competitions since the start of last season - but he has already proved that, when fit, he is still an absolutely top-class striker.

Liverpool with/without Sturridge since 2014-15
WithPremier LeagueWithout
58.8%Win %37.2%
1.9Points per game1.4

Sturridge was very impressive when he scored twice against Southampton in the League Cup, but he broke down again soon afterwards.

People are pointing the finger at his injury record in the same way they used to poke fun at former Tottenham and England midfielder Darren Anderton - and it does not help him to hear his manager Jurgen Klopp say he has to play through pain.

Professional players do that all the time anyway - I hardly ever played at 100% - but it depends on the level of pain you have to deal with.

Everybody has got a different pain threshold and a different way of dealing with it. Without knowing what Sturridge is going through, it is unfair to comment on it like that.

I understand why Klopp and the Liverpool fans want him back, because they are not doing as well without him but, if Sturridge does play when he is injured, then he is just going to cause himself more damage.

Ian Wright was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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