Does this talented midfielder still have a role to play at Arsenal when injury-free?
Arsenal are criticised; and often quite rightly, for a number of reasons. For the past ten years, there have been mutterings of “spending” this, and “world-class defender” that, and whilst some issues have been sorted by design (namely the signing of top quality goalkeeper Petr Cech) and some have been sorted by sheer dumb luck (the emergence of Francis Coquelin), there remains a nagging question. Do Arsenal have any leaders?
This is not just in the vocal sense, this is in the heartbeat sense. Steven Gerrard and Roy Keane were captains and leaders for their respective teams, but they were so much more than that meagre title. They were players who fought for their club like it was the only thing that mattered, players whose passion for their colours could rarely be doubted. In fact, the closest Arsenal have to this is Jack Wilshere.
An academy starlet, Wilshere is Arsenal through and through, however; with Arsenal still fighting on three fronts trophy wise (albeit soon to be two following the obvious Catalan destruction that will be handed out in the Champions League), there is a danger that Wilshere is becoming the forgotten man, or even irrelevant.
As injury-prone as he is, Wilshere’s injuries can be pinpointed down to two big set-backs. A few seasons ago, what seemed a harmless knock in a pre-season game, sidelined him for the entirety of the campaign.His influence was felt immediately upon his return to action. The Gunners had just had their prize asset Robin Van Persie robbed from them, and Wilshere’s return to a midfield alongside new signing Santi Cazorla, couldn’t come quickly enough.
Even his biggest admirers would struggle to see him even getting in the team as it is currently. With Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsey et al all firmly ahead of him in the queue, alongside credible and most importantly, fully fit opposition in Flamini, Arteta and Elneny, Wilshere’s central midfield chances; at least for this season, are ambitious to say the least.
Moreover, much like with Özil and Cazorla before him, flirtations with a left and right wing stint only ended with multiple runs inside, seeking the bustle of the central areas. It is almost as if Wenger has figured out he has too many central players and yet, has not taken much notable action to correct this when it matters most. Furthermore, the less said about Wilshere as a holding midfielder the better…
So, we have an injury-prone player, who can only play in one position, who is actually quite specialised in said one position, and who; for all his natural ability, has some questionable off-field habits. So what are the reasons to keep him at the club and continue to expend such resource for a man who is not playing week after week?
One explanation would be for the sake of morale? There are certainly cases where the gravitas brought by an individual is seen as almost on a par with what they can do on the pitch. David Beckham at the 2002 World Cup; a man who was clearly half-fit, stems as an example. Sometimes having a player who may not play to full capacity or perform too regularly, but can still influence others, can be seen as advantageous. Yet is Wilshere really at this status yet? It is doubtful.
Is it for the sake of what he could be? Possibly, but maybe it is fairer to say that Arsene Wenger’s loyalty knows no bounds. If Abou Diaby can carve out almost 9 years in North London, there is boundless hope offered to Jack. However, there is a tense unwillingness to part with what is still, hugely untapped potential.
The greatest argument however, comes with what Jack Wilshere is, rather than his playing style. First off, he is English. In a cosmopolitan league, this should mean nothing, but actually means everything. Secondly, he is a product of Arsenal’s youth system. Clubs take great pride in this; as do supporters, and coupled with the previous point, it paints the image of a local lad, rising through the ranks. Fans of The Gunners only have to look to their nearest and dearest to see exactly what this means, as the Spurs fans take great delight in chanting “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own”.
Finally; and possibly most crucially, there never seems to be a suggestion of Wilshere’s head being turned to pastures new. Whilst players such as Héctor Bellerin may be forcing their way into Sky Sports teams of seasons thus far, there is always the nagging suggestion that a large scale bid from a Barcelona/Madrid will force the inevitable. Whilst Arsenal’s slight rise up the pecking order may have helped, at no point do I get the impression that such a scenario will play out with Wilshere.
So, what can we conclude? A top class potential, limited to occasional flashes of brilliance, led by a man who will defend his players to the hills. Mr. Arsenal in waiting then, or more a case of warming Abou Diaby’s old spot on the treatment table? Truthfully, it is difficult to say. He may well yet have a huge say in the title race, and one thing that is certain, is that nothing would be more fitting for Wilshere than to show up late, and drive his team to glory.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal
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