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BotN: Arsenal defend decision to send Diaby and Wilshere bear-wrestling

The Gunners have adopted an unusual approach to rehabilitation, so says Back of the Net's John Foster...

Arsenal have been forced to defend their controversial treatment policy after it emerged that Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere will complete their rehabilitation from injury by fighting a Eurasian brown bear.

Diaby has struggled with a series of niggling injuries for much of his career, and doubts have been raised over whether his thigh strain will have healed in time for his duel with the bear, Coco, which will be closely observed by club physiotherapist Gary Lewin.

âÂÂItâÂÂs not enough that Abou has to show us heâÂÂs recovered from his knock, he has to prove his reflexes, upper body strength, and warrior instinct are also at 100%, and we wonâÂÂt know that until heâÂÂs wrestled Coco in a one-on-one, no-holds-barred showdown,â Lewin told wâÂÂAs every physio knows, itâÂÂs no good being able to do sprints and twists if you canâÂÂt subdue an irate bear in unarmed combat.âÂÂ

Another long-term Arsenal absentee is Jack Wilshere, whose last competitive appearance was in June 2011. But the England star has spoken out about his excitement in proving his match fitness against the 11-year old bear, while acknowledging that he may have tried to rush his last attempted comeback in January.

âÂÂCocoâÂÂs a great competitor, and itâÂÂll be tough to overwhelm and pin him for a count of ten while avoiding his razor-sharp claws, but IâÂÂm looking forward to the challenge,â Wilshere told our reporter. âÂÂLast time I tried to take him on when I could still feel a little tightness in my ankle, and I was lucky to get away with some light gouging. You canâÂÂt give Coco an inch.âÂÂ

The bear-wrestling program has proved controversial since it became public knowledge, but former players at the Emirates have spoken out to defend both the policy and Coco.

âÂÂWrestling bears keeps you young,â said former Gunners hero Robert Pirès. âÂÂMy career was drifting a little until Pat Rice brought this adorable thing into training one day and explained how it had followed him home. I miss many things about Arsenal, but my fondest memories are the narrow escapes from CocoâÂÂs slavering jaws.âÂÂ

âÂÂThe gaffer [Arsène Wenger] used to release Coco into the team hotel on away trips,â added retired star Fredrik Ljungberg. âÂÂIt kept you on your toes. Anyone who couldnâÂÂt cope with CocoâÂÂIâÂÂm thinking of players like Phillipe Senderos, Rami Shabaan, Edu after he lost a yard of paceâÂÂwere shipped out the door as soon as their wounds had sufficiently healed.âÂÂ

When pressed by journalists, an Arsenal spokesman pointed out that wrestling bears is a great advance on previous fitness tests at the club. Stalwart full-back Nigel Winterburn was controversially released in 2000 after failing to convince Wenger that he could out-wrestle a narwhal, and eight years ago the Emirates club pulled out of a deal for Hatem Trabelsi after the TunisianâÂÂs medical saw him comfortably bested by a kangaroo.

âÂÂI would never send my players out on a wet Tuesday evening in November If I didnâÂÂt think they could subject a grizzly to a reverse chinlock,â Wenger told âÂÂWhatever damage a bear can do, Stoke City are a hundred times worse.âÂÂ

Editor's note: this isn't a serious accusation and all quotes are fictionalised. But you knew that, because you're not stupid.

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