Is the scathing criticism of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere justified?
Before the final whistle had even blown in Jack Wilshere’s landmark game for Bournemouth, humorous reaction had already began flowing through on social media. It was the first-time that the injury prone midfielder on loan from Arsenal had completed 90 minutes since 2014, yet despite all the humour, this is undoubtedly a major milestone for the midfielder in his bid to fulfil his potential.
Between now and his last 90 minutes, way back in September 2014 following a 2-2 draw against Manchester City at the Emirates, a great deal has befallen the injury stricken Wilshere. 771 days have passed since then, 487 since he last completed a match in any competition: England’s 3-2 win over Slovenia in Ljubljana in which Wilshere netted a brace, his first two international goals, back in June 2015.
Following a wretched spell of injury for his club and a substandard display for his country in which Roy Hodgson’s gamble failed to pay off, the Arsenal midfielder has gone from one of the country’s hottest young prospect to an outcast, which has seen him carted off on loan to South Coast club Bournemouth in a bid to reignite his fleeting career. It may have been the first 90 minutes he has completed, but he is featuring regularly for the Cherries, this latest result, a 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, being his sixth successive league outing for the club.
He has yet to register a goal or an assist for the Cherries, but having played 414 minutes for Bournemouth maintaining a 90% pass accuracy percentage, even if he is making cameo appearances, it suggests that they are of the more classy variety as far as Eddie Howe’s team are concerned.
“I’m working hard in training but you can’t get that match fitness unless you’re playing games, and to play 90 minutes in the Premier League is hard,” the 24-year-old told the Guardian. “I knew it would take me some time. I haven’t played 90 minutes in two years.
“It’s a long time and by the time it got to the 88th minute I was feeling it. But that’s only normal and, when you play game by game, you start to get your confidence back and try more things. I feel like I’m getting my first five yards of power back and, when I have that, I can do more things with the ball.”
There were undoubted flashes of quality from Wilshere in the club’s last outing against Spurs, where he featured in a position just off lone centre-forward Callum Wilson. Despite his average pass accuracy appearing impressive, his overall movement appears too slow and his touch too heavy, and this became more obvious as the game wore on in a jaded display.
The more game time the midfielder has however, he is bound to make strides, and with Gareth Southgate watching on, the player will have been motivated to try to impress and force himself back into the international fold, despite crowing from TalkSport that they “need a telescope” to see the potential in Jack Wilshere, along with tweets from journalist Sarah Shepherd that the Cherries deserve an extra point just for getting 90 minutes out of the on-loan Gunner. Wilshere however seemed unfazed, telling the Guardian:
“I have got to concentrate on myself, playing here, playing 90 minutes and getting back to my best. Then I can start thinking about the international fold.”
Wilshere was also insistent that he hadn’t been thinking about the prospect of playing for Arsenal again, and he was unwilling to talk about Jamie Redknapp’s scathing pre-match assertion that the 24-year-old has no future at the Emirates. Let us not forget however that he has been at the club since the age of nine, and became their youngest senior league player when he made his debut aged 16 years and 256 days. He would go on to make 159 appearances under Arsene Wenger until his injury woes got the better of him and he was carted off to South Coast in a bid for regular football, but deep down he must have a desire to return to the Emirates and feature regularly again for a club of such magnitude.
Despite this most recent landmark, he simply cannot afford to let up. He must show Wenger that he is playing as often as he can, for as long as possible and of course to the best of his ability; hid fitness being the decisive factor that prevented his parent club getting the best out of him thanks to a succession of muscle injuries, sprains and breaks. He has missed a great deal of football, and he cannot afford another long spell on the treatment table.
Having got Wilshere over the 90-minute barrier, Cherries boss Eddie Howe has backed the on-loan midfielder to excel. “Football can be a cruel game and you pick up an injury when you’re doing all the right things,” Howe told the Guardian. “We’re pleased to be able to select him and he’s having a real positive effect on the team. Our long?term objective is to keep him fit and available for the games ahead.”
He is clearly a reliable presence in midfield, but one only has to compare his impact to that of teammate Harry Arter to see how much lesser his impact is in comparison. Fitness however breeds sharpness, and Wilshere simply has to take this opportunity for the sake of his career. For now, the critics will swarm like vultures and criticism will be inevitable considering the apparent potential of the player when he first burst onto the scene, but if he continues to progress step by step towards his best once again, he may be back in the reckoning as one of the Premier League’s top midfielders soon, and just maybe, he could have something to offer the national team, which would go a long way towards repairing his reputation with the majority of fans.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Ryu Voelkel.
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