The England international was deemed the face of Arsenal following the departure of Cesc Fabregas, the shining hope for both club and country as the nation’s leading midfield talent. But Wilshere’s age tells an altogether interesting story.
Even at 21, his best season and only real opportunity to perform uninterrupted every week seems an age ago, from a time when the makeup of Arsenal was a hugely different one from what we see now. From that 2010-11 season, all the key attacking figures have departed, and most of the peripheral names too. It was then that Wilshere made it known that he’d be the torchbearer for the club eventually, regardless of other matters.
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But Arsenal fans are yet to see that form in full flight. There have been glimpses here and there: his winning goal in the FA Cup last season against Swansea, and the manner in which he’s linked up with Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta at various points over the past year. The doubt, the fear and the hurdle remains his injury problems, the same which kept him out of action for well over a year and continue to disrupt his inclusion for prolonged spells in the starting XI.
Fortunately, however, and even prior to Ozil’s arrival, Arsenal have learnt to live without him, performing to such a standard towards the end of last season that questions were being raised as to where Wilshere fit in.
At present, Wilshere isn’t the best No.10 at the club, a position Arsene Wenger sees his long-term future; nor is he the second or third best. Tomas Rosicky could stake a claim for having much more of an influence in that position than Wilshere.
Instead, Wilshere has been moved about the pitch, much like Ramsey had done in prior seasons, with recent outings seeing him on the flanks due to the increased injury list, and, arguably his best position, in the central midfield two.
But there is depth in all of those positions now that don’t call for Wilshere to be rushed back. Fans are far more at ease knowing that the weight of responsibility has been shared throughout a team of hugely talented players, each able to carry out the football instructions from Wenger that don’t require Wilshere to be the constant from midfield.
Wilshere is evidently made of tough stuff and remains one of Arsenal and England’s most valued players. The talent is there to deploy of style of play that needs to be maintained with his club and one that is heavily desired with his country. The benefit, though, is looking long term. Wilshere can still be the pivotal figure in any setup, but this road to full recovery is an arduous one which needs to be taken with care. His numbers may not be in line with that of Ramsey or indeed Ozil, but that will come in time – again, the pressure isn’t there for him to perform to that standard each week anymore.
What Arsenal have at present is a player in Wilshere who adds incredible depth from the bench, and specifically depth that caters to the football ideals of Wenger. The midfielder came on in the second half of Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Napoli on Tuesday night, joining a group where there was no obvious weakness in spite of the injury list.
With Cazorla said to be back following the international break, there will be even more room for Wilshere to patiently continue his rehabilitation, rotated in and out of the side without ever really losing his match fitness. It’s the perfect balance.
Is Arsenal’s lack of reliance on Wilshere a good thing?
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