The burden of expectation has eased somewhat for Jack Wilshere at Arsenal. No longer is he relied upon to act as the team’s talisman on the pitch, the driving force and influence that was previously entrusted to Cesc Fabregas. Such as the talent in Arsene Wenger’s midfield that Wilshere can afford to shy away from the limelight and continue his development at his own pace.
This season has been a mixed bag from the England international. He’s been fantastic – Marseille – horrendous – West Brom, despite a goal, and Manchester City – and everything in between. But his latest non-football-related incident away at Manchester City has provided further evidence that Wilshere still has some maturing do to.
It’s not a controversy, and it shouldn’t be labelled as such. In fact, I’m struggling to see what is so frightfully heinous about a player giving the opposing fans the single-fingered salute. We’ve seen much, much worse in football in recent times, and banning Wilshere for two games – one short of the three given to a player who breaks another’s leg – seems like the governing bodies are further indulging in this climate of pick-and-choose what they want to throw the book at.
Of course, Wilshere should have known better. There’s nothing hugely wrong with what he did, but nevertheless he should have been aware that there would have been retrospective action taken. It’s heat-of-the-moment stuff, and this whole thing of footballers needing to be role models shouldn’t always come up as an excuse. Let’s not pretend that a football ground is a haven of purity. Wilshere was clearly frustrated with his own performance and became the target of the opposition support.
Wilshere’s actions will put Arsenal at a disadvantage over the coming games, but in that time he will have an opportunity to reflect on himself and his performances this season. It may even be worth looking at one of his teammates who has seen similar hurdles thrown his way during his career.
Aaron Ramsey’s path has been strikingly similar to that of Wilshere, but the difference is the manner in which the Welshman conducts himself. He’s never in the spotlight – at least for negative reasons – and has shown, not only through his interviews but also with his captaining of Wales as a teenager, just how mature he is for his age.
Wilshere, on the other hand, is equally as talented but has taken plenty of flak for his actions or behaviour away from the pitch. Fortunately, in a way, Wilshere isn’t the only Premier League star who gets dragged down by off-pitch incidents.
Wenger has surely done his part. As he has with the majority of young players at Arsenal, he’s been patient with Wilshere. The manager is unlikely to take this latest incident as a personal slight, but he will be right to feel disappointed. Again, it’s not that Wilshere did anything terrible, it’s just that players at Arsenal, and other clubs, are responsible for the image of the team they represent and upholding certain standards.
Wilshere’s Man City salute will be forgotten soon enough. The important factor is that he starts to address his own game. Wenger and the Arsenal coaching staff will be on hand to continue to guide him, but Wilshere’s issue is that he needs to take some of that responsibility himself, much in the way Ramsey has done. Despite Wenger’s faith and patience in the Welshman, it can’t be said that Ramsey has put little in to his current run of form.
Wilshere, for all his talent and ability to be a match-winner, hasn’t reached the top of the mountain yet.