Is the clock ticking down on Jack Wilshere’s Career? by JH
At the tender age of just 16 Jack Wilshere made his debut for Arsenal against Blackburn, becoming the youngest ever player to play for us. He followed this up just over a week later, by scoring his first competitive goal for the club vs Sheffield United, he became just the second 16 year old to score for The Gunners.
Just under 50 Arsenal appearances later was when Jack Wilshere really announced himself to the world, Arsenal played in the Champions League, against the best team in the world, the best midfield in the world, Barcelona.
Xavi and Iniesta had come 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Balon D’Or that year, And here was Arsene Wenger, Having the gall to play a 19 year old kid against them?!
But it got even worse. That 19 year old kid then had the cheek to almost effortlessly dominate not just one of them, but both of them, for 90 minutes, his passing was superb, he battled, every time the spanish geniuses came forward, he was there with a crunching challenge to get the ball, he had the confidence to demand the ball off more experienced teammates, no matter his situation, facing his own goal, tightly marked, it made no difference, he received the ball and as a result of either his immense skill or his animalistic desire, he broke free of two of the best midfielders ever to grace a football pitch and effortlessly glided forward. His was rewarded for his immense showing against Barcelona with the MOTM award, and that was that. He was called the “Future of English Football” by then England manager Fabio Capello, heralded as a future captain of club and country, someone both teams simply had to build around. He was going to lead both Arsenal and England to inevitable glory.
But that is not how football works.
Very rarely does someone make it to the top level in this game without being tested, And Jack has been tested more than most. By the end of his breakout year, where he earned the title of “The Future” He received his first major injury, an injury to his ankle, sustained against New York Red Bulls in a friendly, although Wenger claims the damage was done earlier Vs Switzerland for England, which begged the question, why the hell did he play against the Red Bulls in a friendly then?
He missed 65 weeks to this injury, and from there, everything spiralled out of control. Injury after injury have continually halted his development development, for every good moment in his career, from his goal of the season vs Norwich, to being England’s best player during the Euro Qualifiers to scoring the goal of the season vs West Brom, an injury is waiting round the corner to curtail his momentum.
Now this is where I ask the difficult question, when do we give up on Jack? Our future?
Now his obvious love for our club buys him a lot more patience from fans than others can lay claim to. He is Arsenal through and through, And when fans start losing patience, we win the FA Cup, and he sings his way back into our hearts.
Thanks to his tender ankles though, he has missed the most important development years of his career, 19 – 22. These are the years where potential has to evolve into consistent ability. Where the best players learn to control games, make the most of their opportunities, and to become indispensable to club and country. Now for England, I believe Jack walks into this team when fit, he is comfortably England’s best player nearly every time they play. Nobody else seems to be able to pull off that deep lying playmaker role quite like he can.
But for Arsenal? Well Coquelin is in before anybody in that holding role, Ramsey and Cazorla are both ahead of Jack next to him. which leaves the No.10 role, which is undisputably Mesut Ozil’s, and then the wings, Sanchez has made the left his own, which leaves the Ox on the right, Jacks only target, but not his natural position. Jack is best in our Cazorla role, next to the DM, controlling the game from deep. He has shown his ability here for England, usually earning the MOTM award, and outshining his teammates, But Santi is untouchable right now. Ramsey has proven himself more reliable in terms of fitness, although I see Jack more suited to this role than him due to Ramseys natural impulse to get forward whenever possible, Jack seems more disciplined.
He also has to look over his shoulder with Dan Crowley looking a hot prospect and Gedion Zelalem looking incredible and seemingly getting better and better each passing day. There is a young Jeff Reine Adelaide who looks like he can play that role too and we also signed another youngster Vlad Dragomir (What a Name!!) who is supposedly comparable to a young Toni Kroos.
So I ask you, how can Jack Wilshere fight and overtake Santi Cazorla in his preferred position and stop the likes of Zelalem from leapfrogging him in the pecking order when he cannot even stay fit?
Jack Wilshere has only two things going for him right now, First is that Zelalem is busy ripping apart Scottish defenses right now, which I believe will see him return there next year if they are promoted (Thanks in the main part to our good relationship with manager Mark Warburton). So this gives Jack this year and probably next to claim what both he and Zelalem feel should be theirs. The other is Santi’s age. Although he currently shows no sign of declining with age, AW is more than likely going to start phasing him out. With Wilshere now being ruled out for at least 3 months, we may not see him in action until around February, and even then, it will more likely be cameos from the bench which, realistically to me, only gives him next season to turn his troubles around, stay fit and prove to us and most importantly AW that he is the man to start next to Coquelin.
So, as Jacks sits himself on the all too familiar physio table for the next few months, he will have to do so knowing that with every passing week, Santi Cazorla is proving himself more and more irreplaceable, Gedion Zelalem is running Ranger games whilst also providing assist after assist, and Arsenal’s other youngsters are getting closer and closer to first team action.
For all Jack Wilshere once promised, he is 23 years of age and not even close to securing a first team spot that was already his at 18 Five injury stricken years have passed, Jack has gone backwards, if not in ability and potential then definitely in squad status. At 23 he can no longer claim to be the future with huge potential. And with him being 3rd choice CM he can’t even claim to being the present.
Which begs the question, What is Jack Wilshere? Once heralded as our future captain, does he still hold this potential? As of right now he can’t keep himself fit, never mind nail down a place in the first XI. But I suppose AW is the Master of patience, it took 8 years of persistent injuries for him to finally give up on Diaby, He stuck by RVP when he struggled with injury for his first five years at the club, even less important players such as Rosicky are constantly picking up injuries but Wenger will not let him go, despite the fact he only makes the bench, if that when fit.
Arsene Wenger sticks by his players more than anyone, but with Diaby he showed he does have his limit. How long does Jack Wilshere get to prove his worth? to prove his fitness? would we risk selling him to a rival? City were interested, could we turn down £30 million for a guy who misses so many games? He buys himself more time with the fans due to his Arsenal blood, but is that enough?
What do you think? Is Jack running out of time? Can he ever realise his potential and become a starting captain in our midfield?