Jack Wilshere 20 Midfielder Arsenal
This time last year the advice handed out to Jack Wilshere was very simple - “Stay out of trouble, get fit, show Europe how good you are.” That didn’t exactly work, did it?
At the time no-one had a clue about the extent of Wilshere’s problems and there was no way his return was expected to take until October this year to happen. When The 100 was released last November, Wilshere was supposed to be back playing in March.
At the very least, allowing for delays in treatment and stutters as he got back to match fitness, Wilshere was earmarked as a potential difference maker at Euro 2012 for England. A shining light from a drab tournament in what should have been Fabio Capello’s final few weeks in charge of the national team. As it was, neither Capello nor Wilshere were in attendance. Instead, Jack has spent much of the last twelve months battling his way back on to the football pitch; and then promptly getting sent off at Old Trafford.
When he burst into the Arsenal first team squad two years ago, Wilshere was simply characterised as a little ball of wondrous footballing potential. Fans of Arsenal, the Premier League and the English national team had to of been taken aback by the bright start he made; and in particular his outstanding performances against Barcelona in the Champions League.
Here was a young man capable of mixing it with the very best of world football. Comfortable on the ball, adept at making quick, sharp and correct decisions under pressure and with a glorious eye for a pass, there was a certain joy in seeing him playing alongside Cesc Fabregas against the midfield three of Barcelona and not being phased.
During his time on loan at Bolton, Wilshere was praised for having just enough physicality in his game to survive the rugged English game. He is, and remains, the midfield player that a “new England” desperately needs. He is the first memorable English central midfielder to be promoted through the Arsenal youth teams in some time, although his last twelve months have been everything that a young player does not need.
Wilshere didn’t play a competitive football match between June 2nd 2011 when England battled Switzerland in an end-of-season European Championships qualifier and last month’s Premier League clash between Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers.
Although, he is technically back, his road to return is properly just beginning. In the last few weeks, Wilshere has featured for both Arsenal and England with the initial reaction and reports being good. Jack has looked comfortable on the ball, confident in the tackle and most importantly of all, free of any doubts about his ankle.
However, the expectation remains huge. The fact that he was called into the first England squad since his return, after little more than two hours of competitive football should tell you where his position remains within the Three Lions set-up. It is truthfully worrying for Wilshere.
All he needs now is to be allowed time to get the hang of football. It’s hard to believe he’ll be allowed and given that freedom by the Arsenal and/or England fans. The Emirates crowd have seen more than their fair share of long lay-offs in recent years. The trials and tribulations of Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo Da Silva should be reminders for the North London faithful that patience is key, even at a time when the whole club is struggling. It would at least be expected that they give the 20 year-old time to settle back into what is effectively a new team.
When Wilshere was last featuring regularly for Arsenal, he was playing and working with the likes of Fabregas, Alex Song, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie. In their place, he know has to get used to the nuances of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Gervinho and Olivier Giroud.
Wilshere needs only to ask a fellow member of The 100, Aaron Ramsey, about how long it can take for a player to rediscover top form after a long time on the side lines. Its arguable Ramsey hasn’t got there yet and he returned from his leg break two years ago - but that’s something you read about last week.
In short, when Jack Wilshere debuted for Arsenal he rose so quickly in the centre of midfield that fans and the media alike struggled not to get over-excited about him. He remains that ball of potential regardless of injury. In every mention of his return to first team action for Arsenal, there was always an accompanying line about him following that up with a return to the England set-up. Despite not kicking a football in vein over the course of 15 months, Jack Wilshere remains almost a guaranteed starter for his national team.
2012 has been a frustrating time for the central midfielder. It should have been a defining twelve months in his fledging career and the time when he stepped up to anchor the Arsenal and England midfield for years to come.
Unfortunately, the world has passed him by somewhat; even if it doesn’t appear that way when you look at both club and country. Like the awkward kids waiting at the corner of the road for their pals to finish their tea before being allowed out again, Wilshere is back and with that, comes the expectation of excitement. If he can be the same energetic, box-to-box player that showed no fear in the faces of Xavi, Anders Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, then Wilshere can still go on to be the player that his potential will allow. 2012 will be looked upon as a learning curve. A time in his life that he learned what it meant to be a professional footballer and how quickly it can all be taken away.
However, it’ll be no surprise to us if he doesn’t recover from this at all.
“England's greatest hope? The pressure on Wilshere to become England's best is enormous, but he has the quality to achieve exactly that. The variables are too numerous to assume he'll live up to his potential but if he does he could prove to be the bridge between a staid and stodgy England and the St George's Park generation.” - Chris Nee (The Stiles Council)
U Let’s try this again. Stay out of trouble, get fit and show Europe how good you are