Jack Wilshere has reportedly been promised a place in the England squad for this summer’s World Cup, even though the midfielder would struggle to get into Arsenal’s starting XI when fully fit.
Out of sight, out of mind. Unlike in the past when Wilshere’s injuries would have had Arsenal supporters anxious for news on his return, the form of other recently returned midfielders, coupled with Wilshere’s inconsistency this season, has led most to believe that a quiet and full recuperation away from first-team duties is the best course of action.
There shouldn’t be much doubt about the midfielder’s talent, it’s his temperament which can come into question from time to time. Though even to move completely away from the salute at Manchester City this season which led to a two-game ban, Wilshere hasn’t done enough to merit a sustained run in any team, whether it be Arsenal’s or England’s.
Against Aston Villa at Villa Park, Wilshere was fantastic, putting forward one of his better games of the season as he scored and assisted in Arsenal’s 2-1 win. Then comes the reserve, poor showings against the likes of West Brom, where despite his goal in the 1-1 draw, he looked well short of his best. In the big games against Manchester City and Liverpool, Wilshere looked far from able to hold his own in the centre of midfield, not only being overrun but also displaying a lack of understanding for the position and what his role entails.
Wilshere’s reputation at the moment is built on that one fantastic season in Arsenal’s midfield alongside Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song in 2010-11. Since then, injuries have disrupted his development. The hope among Arsenal supporters is that he does eventually come good, mimicking the path taken by Aaron Ramsey, who was similarly or even more frustrating than Wilshere in the recent past.
Due to his age and performances in the past, it’s understandable, maybe even right, that Roy Hodgson has kept a space open for Wilshere this summer. At 22, the midfielder still has plenty of time to develop into the kind of player who can run England’s midfield from a deep-lying central position. If Wilshere is to play further up field behind the striker, he’ll need to improve on his scoring and assist figures. He has the talent, undoubtedly, but it’s a question of consistency in the final third to handle such a role.
Hodgson will also be well aware of Wilshere’s injury history, meaning the England coach isn’t going to decide his World Cup squad on appearances alone in the final stage of this season. Wilshere’s is a special situation that needs delicate handling if he’s to fulfil his potential at both club and international level.
Ultimately, Wilshere’s selection for England, both this summer and beyond, should be based on how well he performs. Even if he’d have been fit throughout this campaign, it may have been questionable as to whether to include him this summer. Injuries are an easy excuse, especially when they’ve ruled players out for periods of over a year. Wilshere, however, will need to take the initiative and better himself on the pitch in the way some of his Arsenal colleagues have done.
A place in the England team may be a helping hand at a pivotal point in his career. Wilshere must respond and justify Hodgson’s selection of him this summer. There is a real danger he could get left behind from those who will help to shape the next generation of the national team.