I think it is you know. And that gives me no pleasure in writing it I can assure you.
He’s one of ours. Signed since the age of about seven and approaching as much time with an affiliation at Arsenal as Arsène Wenger. He’s risen up through the ranks, played in European competition, roused the fans at The Armoury for a hearty rendition of “what do you think of Tottenham?”, he’s been a sole Arsenal representation on England national teams, he’s loved his life in red and white.
Yet with all of the recent news about him not signing a new deal, about wanting a bit more cash and a little less incentive-based remuneration, it feels like his Arsenal career is slipping away.
And when I saw his cameo performance on Sunday I sadly didn’t feel the same pang of sadness that I did the week before and sadly, the week before that because the more and more I start to think about the reality of the situation, the more that pragmatism kicks in for my mind.
Because let’s be realistic here; another player who has the same style, form, injury record and recent performance levels, probably has us all talking about it being ‘best for all parties’ if he moved on in the summer.
Jack Wilshere has a special place for most of us because he is most of us. An Arsenal boy, a talented younger player who we wanted to be our Steven Gerrard, our captain fantastic. But those injuries. Those frigging injuries. Jack’s body has robbed us of our modern day Adamsesque club icon.
But the truth is that the club has moved on and I’m just not sure how Jack Wilshere fits into the current Arsenal set up. It certainly doesn’t help that with the current manager we seem to have declined to a point (I’m not talking recently because obviously we’ve had a few good results, but I’m talking over longer periods of time) where we don’t seem to have a specific style of play. If we knew what type of football we were supposed to be – our identity and style – we would have a better idea of where Jack would fit. But we don’t have a clue and as such were left guessing on what his future role in the Arsenal team would be.
But having seen him give the ball away so cheaply on Sunday, which was similar to what happened on Thursday night against CSKA, I am starting to wonder if he’d be anything other than a bit-part player next season anyway.
Just think about what sort of players we probably need next season:
- Goalkeeper to replace the ageing Cech or certainly the departing Ospina
- Centre half to replace the rapidly ageing Koscielny or the error-prone Mustafi
- Right back cover to replace Bellerin
- Combative midfielder – able to have an impact at both ends of the pitch
- Pace out wide in attacking positions
Perhaps some of that will come from the famous ‘internal solutions’ but the one area of the pitch where I think we really need to look at is that midfield and if we’re going to look at somebody like Maitland-Nile’s as that combative central midfielder, then sacrifices need to be made in the middle of the park, and sentiment can play no part.
Arsène has his hierarchies and that’s why Wilshere is playing regularly. He’s at the top of the pecking order and with Arsène Wenger you have to do a lot wrong before you start to fall down it. It doesn’t even matter if your contract is up for renewal and you have no intention of signing a new one, you’ll still be given game time if you are top of the pecking order. Just look at The Ox at the beginning of the season against Liverpool.
So Jack will continue to play this season but I can’t see there being any chance that he is an Arsenal player next season and again, if I take sentiment out, it’s probably best for everyone. If it stops somebody like Maitland-Niles being given his shot then it shouldn’t be something Arsenal are looking to do.
Sadly Wilshere just isn’t the same player he was. He looks bulkier than when he was at his best for Arsenal. He doesn’t seem to be able to weave around players like he used to. That famous ‘burst’ that Arsène always spoke about isn’t there. He’s not an amazing passer of the ball over long distances and so playing in a deeper-lying position just doesn’t work. We have Xhaka who has a better passing range and a more reliable body. And he can’t play the all-action runner; he’s nowhere near the level of Ramsey. Then in front of him at number 10 is Özil and again, he’s just not at that level.
So I don’t see a solution in the current Arsenal squad that sees Jack getting regular game time.
My hope would be for him to go abroad. I’d rather that than see him rock up in a West Ham, Everton, or some such other domestic Premier League short next season. But I suspect that is where this is heading.
When it happens we’ll all wish him well – depending on the team he chooses – but it won’t feel like the fanfare ending to an Arsenal career that I hoped for.
It’ll all end with a bit more of a damp squib. And that’s a real shame.
Catch you all tomorrow.