While most Arsenal fans choose to try to ignore that our European football will now be played on Thursday nights the significance of our match against Cologne will not be lost on Jack Wilshere. It’s been six years since that famous night when we beat Barcelona. Such was Wilshere’s performances over two legs against the Catalan giants that legends such as Iniesta and Xavi singled the then teenager out for praise. If anyone had told him then that years later a game in the Europa League would be viewed as crucial to his career he wouldn’t have believed you.
Despite numerous injuries Arsene Wenger has always remained positive, dismissing each respective spell on the sidelines as coincidental. It’s another example of perhaps our manager’s greatest weakness, protecting his players too much. While the Frenchmen has always kept an arm round the Englishmen’s shoulder, the fact remains as things stand no new contract has been offered to a man once viewed as our future captain. As the saying goes, actions speak louder then words and as things stand the club seem happy for him to leave for nothing in less then 12 months.
It’s ironic, at a time where Sanchez and Ozil are criticised for not showing their loyalty long term, an individual who can claim loving the Gunners since a child won’t be offered a deal he would sign in a heartbeat. Of course it’s the amount of time spent on the sidelines which make it hard for our board to put a price on what wage they should be coughing up. It’s worth remembering the only reason he will be in the squad this week is his refusal to seek a loan before the transfer deadline.
Plenty of sides will take a gamble on him next summer. Considering they don’t have to pay a fee for someone who’s ability is proven it’s worth the gamble even if he can’t guarantee how many minutes in a campaign he can offer. Perhaps a move abroad would be a solution, it could be as simple as the Premiership is too demanding physically on him and he be better suited in a league less demanding.
His stats at Bournemouth were so underwhelming that he may have realised the moment he is allowed to leave the Emirates he is kissing goodbye to playing at a level where he can realistically compete for silverware. So it’s safe to say he will fight against the odds to keep alive his boyhood dream. Every supporter (as well as marketing) love when a local lad breaks through the youth team so, given the choice, most gooners would rather he stay, no matter how long he needs to rediscover his old form.
But it’s not just us Gooners. Our national team’s midfield has never looked as weak on paper as now. By now it was expected that Wilshere would be one of our leading lights going into the World Cup, such has been his decline he is no longer in anyone’s thoughts to be on the plane to Russia. To even suggest he has a chance would be cruel to a man who already has had to deal with so much mentally. Yet he and Ross Barkley are the only two midfielders who offer us anything different. Technically they play the game differently to our other CM. It means if either were, to say, from January to May hit their stride there would be a campaign to bring them back into the fold. Of course that’s easy for me to write.
Time is against Jack Wilshere to rescue his career. That’s why Thursday is massive for him. An impressive display for an hour or cameo off the bench would then see a repeat in the league cup a week later. Pass those two auditions he will find himself back in the squad at the weekends. None of that is unrealistic. But one more injury, one misdemeanour (he hasn’t always helped himself) and his agent might not be able to even get him an invite at the negotiation table.
If the Europa League can rebuild Jack Wilshere then it might be a worthwhile competition after all.