I’m sure many of you will remember the day, 19th December 2012, when Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was in that infamous photo along with five young Gunners, all whom had just signed new five year contracts. Arsenal had managed to tie Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Jenkinson, Gibbs and Wilshere all down to new long term deals in hope that they were going to be the British core for many years to come.
It was a move desired by many in the hope that we would find strength from these core players mixed amongst the team. In 2012, Wilshere and Ramsey were by far the most established and progressive players in the first team, with Kieran Gibbs not far behind. But at the time of signing, the Ox and Jenkinson still had a long way to catch up with the rest. They were all youngsters, all who had lots to learn and experiences to value, but why now just over four years on from that day, does every player find themselves out of the Arsenal starting eleven?
May I remind you that of course all five players are still on the club’s books and all are now considered experienced players in the professional game. Wilshere of course isn’t technically our player to utilise this season, with the English midfielder out on loan at Bournemouth, but he remains our permanent player nonetheless.
For Wilshere, the reason for his decline has of course been his injuries. When fit, he is a contender for one of the most talented English midfielders in the game. He may not get lots of goals or assists, but his creativity, passing and fight are real strengths to the midfield and the team as a whole. Arsenal are showing through this difficult faze where they have Cazorla out, that they could really do with a Jack Wilshere type figure being amongst the team. I remain adamant that if Wilshere can prove his fitness, then he’ll become an Arsenal regular once again. However until then, he has of course fallen far since the day he signed that five year deal.
Much like Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey has also had his fair few struggles with injury. Ramsey is probably considered to feature the most out of all five players for Arsenal, with Wenger clearly a big fan of the Welshmen regardless of what kind of form he’s in. Ramsey has made leaps and bounds during his time at Arsenal and his goalscoring run in the 2013-14 season showed just what a fantastic player he can be. Sadly he hasn’t shown much of the same ever since and although he’s currently returning to fitness after a injury struggle, I’m not sure if he’ll find himself back in the team as an Arsenal regular straight away.
Kieran Gibbs in my opinion should be getting another shout at first team action right now, especially considering that Monreal’s form is clearly nowhere near his consistent performances last season. Gibbs had a good spell as an Arsenal regular at left back between the era’s of Clichy and now Monreal, but I think it’s time the Englishman looked to regain his place. Gibbs has found himself largely out of the team for the last few seasons, but has remained very loyal to the club during that period of time. Gibbs may not be the greatest of defenders currently on our books but is a graduate of the Arsenal youth set up and certainly deserves another shot towards regaining his place on the pitch.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is a fan favourite at the Emirates, but more for his action off the pitch rather than on it. His media attention and character makes him a much loved player. But since his move from Southampton in 2011, the Ox has failed to really make great strides towards developing with experience. After five seasons with the Gunners you’d expect he’d had made quite the impression by now, but much like former Saint and fellow Gunner Theo Walcott, the Ox just doesn’t have that consistency in his ability. He’s been performing well so far this season, but with rumours last summer that the club were considering a loan move or sale for the winger, I wouldn’t say things have exactly gotten better for the player since 2012.
Last but not least Carl Jenkinson, the man who’s spent much of his time at Arsenal out of the first team and even on loan. Jenkinson spent the previous two seasons on loan at West Ham where he initially made quite the impression before a nasty injury cut his second stint short. He returned to Arsenal this season after recovering from injury, to be backup to Hector Bellerin. But when Bellerin faced a few weeks out injured, it was time for Jenkinson to step up, however he looked like he was on a completely different level to the rest of the players and he quickly found himself replaced by centre back Gabriel after a few games. In my opinion things had looked bright for Jenkinson upon his return to Arsenal, but after the poor few games he’s had back with the side, I’m not sure if the player is too out of his depth with the Gunners.
All of these players have the chance to make a change to their Arsenal careers and to step up to the level that was expected from them by now back in 2012. Some players may find that goal easier to come by than others, because whilst I expect Wilshere, Ramsey and Gibbs to remain with Arsenal, I think that the Ox’s future and certainly Jenkinson’s career hangs in the balance at the Gunners. Time to show Arsenal that they were worth that five year investment!