fracture was discovered during preseason – but he recognises every setback as an opportunity to come back stronger.
‘When I first got injured my core strength was terrible,’ Wilshere says between keepie-ups. ‘I was 18, playing three times a week and didn’t really do any gym work. All of a sudden when you’re injured you realise everything revolves around your core. It’s crucial for balance and absorbing impact. The first thing my physios got me to work on was my balance.’
The Arsenal physiotherapy staff got him to start simple. ‘I had to stand on one leg and close my eyes,’ says Wilshere. ‘I couldn’t do it.’ Once he got the hang of it and could keep his balance for 30 seconds, he progressed to doing the same thing on a Bosu ball, then introduced throwing and catching medicine balls – presumably with his eyes open. ‘It made a big difference when I came back to full fitness,’ he says.
Wilshere uses this drill as part of a tailored routine that he’s constantly developing. The day before a match, he starts with stretching and foam rolling to improve his ankle and calf mobility. After a team meeting and a short, sharp training session of keepball, he does a 20-minute power workout involving box jumps and loaded jump squats. ‘I work on my speed and strength every day,’ he says. ‘I do a lot of work on my first five yards. For a footballer that’s really important.’ To finish, he works on his chiselled rock-solid core with his eightminute abs session (see the box on p54). As part of injury rehab he uses a vicious 5km Wattbike challenge to top up his stamina (see the box ‘Reboot Camp’, opposite).
Wilshere’s core and balance might initially have needed work, but power is one asset he’s always had in spades, allowing him to always play in older age groups as he rose through Arsenal’s youth ranks to the first team. But at senior level, and especially after injury, it’s much tougher for your fitness to reach the heights demanded by the most physical of Europe’s top leagues.
‘The intensity of the Premier League is incredible,’ says Wilshere. ‘The levels of fitness you have to reach just to survive in it is absurd. When you’re out for a few months it’s tough to come back. It takes a lot of work in the gym with the physios, the specialists, you’re willing to try anything that will help you get fit.’
He’s undoubtedly in the right place. When French manager Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996 – five years before Wilshere joined the Arsenal Academy at the age of nine – he quickly cleared out an entrenched drinking culture at the club. In its place came experts to improve the players’ nutrition, fitness training and rehabilitation that brought with it a period of sustained domestic success.
The latest addition is American Shad Forsythe, who joined from the backroom