It’s very hard to find a single player in the current Arsenal line-up (and maybe you’d have to go a long way back in history as well) who could be named as Mr Arsenal, other than Jack Andrew Wilshere. He is a special kind of a player, someone who breathes for Arsenal, and who has had enough talent and determination to fulfil his dream; so he can breathe for Arsenal in an Arsenal shirt on the field, wearing the number on his back that is reserved only for special players.
There might be a lot of symbolic in the fact that when he was born – he has been a present for Arsenal from New Year 1992 – Arsenal were still reigning champions of England; or that on the day Wilshere was born, Paul Merson, an Arsenal player wearing “10” on his back, scored the only goal in a home draw against Wimbledon.
Wilshere’s technique, pace, endless energy, first touch, determination and ability to drill a hole in opponents’ defence, make him a player who is destined to go further than any other English player did.
I remember the first match in which I could see what kind of player Wilshere is. It was in 2008, when we were playing a friendly match against Real Madrid. 16-year-old Wilshere displayed a determination that is rarely seen at youngsters of his age – I made an instant comparison with Wayne Rooney – and I couldn’t wait to see him in the senior team. His performances in the senior team weren’t deprived of anything we’ve hoped he would deliver – he has been determined, energetic, fast and sometimes the only light in the tunnel of our collective performance.
However, there are possible traps that are waiting on Wilshere’s road to the heights that belong to him.
First of all, let’s start with English media. If there is anything that can destroy young English talent or at least slow them down, English newspapers are more dangerous than any WMD known to humanity.
I remember how they described Rooney after his first classy performances. He was dubbed “Roonaldo” (there is a certain irony in that he did reach the weights of Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima). Whether it was a jinx or karma, but Rooney – who has been an important part in all five Manchester United titles he has won – hasn’t been able to drag England out of mud in big competitions. Au contraire, he actually dragged England into it with a red card in World Cup 2006 against Portugal. Rooney’s turbulent personal life and issues he has had with Ferguson and Moyes already made people believe he is done, despite being only 27. Wilshere gave a man-of-the-match performance in friendly against Brazil, and it seems everyone expects from him to drag England to their second World Cup victory in history.
What Wilshere should learn: don’t read newspapers. Just play football and enjoy your life with your wonderful family when you’re not on the field. You are young, attractive, rich and famous so there will be a lot of temptations that will try to lure you away from the football and family. If you resist them, nothing should stop you on your way to the pantheon of football immortals. If you don’t, your fitness will suffer, your mental state will deteriorate and the consequences won’t stay within football boundaries.
That’s not all. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were considered as second best and third best player in the world not very long ago. The only question was: can they play together? However, the real question should have been: can they play on the same level for England without Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Michael Essien and Claude Makelele to do the dirty job for them?
Jack doesn’t hesitate to tackle nor to work for the team, but it might be that sometimes he won’t be able to repeat a form from Arsenal in England. He will not have either Arteta nor Ramsey in the English national team to assist him in the midfield. He won’t have Giroud to make a lay-off, like the one that preceded Wilshere’s strike against Swansea. He will have to give his best for England and be mentally prepared that sometimes, due to lack of quality in his team, that won’t be enough for success.
This could give him a thought or two about changing clubs. Don’t do that! The main difference between Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen is that, despite the fact the latter won the Premiership with United in 2011, he will always be considered as a traitor in Liverpool, and United fans hardly give a damn about him while the first one – despite the fact he’ll probably finish his career without winning the Premiership – will remain the true legend in the eyes of Liverpool fans.
Also, he should have all possible respect for his team-mates at the club. It was a brilliant thing when I saw him defending his team-mates against Stoke in February. It shows a Vieira-esque attitude that we have needed since 2005. I mean, all our captains – apart from Gallas who a was story of his own – were more: “Sir, would you please put my team-mate’s head out of the toilet? Thank you!” than: “If you touch my team-mate again, I will break your scull using nothing but Gervinho’s forehead. And don’t you dare laughing at Gervinho’s forehead, punk!”
A hunger for improvement is arguably the most important ingredient of every champion. Dražen Petrović, one of the best European basketball players, had his own shooting trainings. He wouldn’t leave the training room before firing 500 shots. He was also improving on his dribbling using chairs. Every day he was the first that arrived on training and the last to go out.
Now, I was very happy when I read that Wilshere is doing exactly the same thing – coming first to training and going home last. That is the spirit of the champion. He probably knows his statistics, when it comes to direct assists for goals and scored goals, should have been better. And his defensive game leaves a lot of room for improvement as we could see, for example, against Bayern at home. After he solves the problems with his ankle this summer, I expect a lot more goals and assists from Jack next season. He has it in himself!
Finally, I’m sure JAW knows all this and that this article is going to be a bit of preaching to the choir. I like Jack as a player and I want to see him succeed, as I believe anything else would be an insult to his enormous potential.
Happy New Year 1992, Gooners! 😉
Written by: Admir