Jack Wilshere has put in some of the most inspired performances over the past few weeks for Arsenal. It’s the drive more than just the flashiness that’s also needed in abundance at the Emirates. He looks like a player who wants to win, one who feels as much hurt as the supporters do when lacklustre and unimaginative attitudes are the best the rest of his team-mates can muster. The captain’s armband for Wilshere at Arsenal is inevitable, but should it be rushed?
It’s symbolic, just as it is to see a player like Carl Jenkinson in the first-team, who is more deserving of a place in the starting XI than his senior counterpart. Two players who live for the Arsenal; two who were brought up with the values of the club and understand its traditions. Wilshere, the finest product any of us have seen from the Arsenal academy since Arsene Wenger took over; Jenkinson, the youngster who grew up on the terraces and who received that rare shot in life to represent his club.
Supporters want that blend of foreign imports who conjure spectacular moments of brilliance on the pitch and the links to something a little closer to home. It’s the brightest light in the tunnel of uncertainty that Wilshere has that right mix of both characteristics. Wilshere is a player of superstar makeup: a product of Ajax, good enough to play for Brazil, able to lock horns with the very best from Barcelona, but undoubtedly a player with Arsenal DNA.
It was slightly moving to see Wilshere relieve Thomas Vermaelen of his captain’s duties, if only for a moment when he took the armband during the win against West Ham. It was a greater feeling of pride than when Cesc Fabregas was named captain. Cesc was as good as anyone to come through the doors at Arsenal, and while he was adored during his time as the talisman of the club, he never really and truly felt like one of Arsenal’s own. That is certainly not the case with Wilshere.
The thing about the captaincy at Arsenal is that it’s always been seen to be a device for Wenger to hold onto his best players. Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie. There’s no rush now. There’s no sense of urgency to keep the best young English midfielder in the country tied down to the club well into the future. Following his announcement that his new contract will run until 2018, Wilshere has shown his commitment, and it’s furthermore a great move from the club to have him sign for that length of time.
But you want to see players like Wilshere liberated and able to play his game without the weight the armband can often bring. It’s not always necessary to make such positions in a team official by handing down the captaincy. There are exceptions, and Wilshere may be the case; whereby young players are given greater responsibility and in turn see their performances rise to the next level.
However, there is also a very real possibility we may see similar outcomes to what happened with Fabregas. And I’m not suggesting Wilshere may grow tired and push for a move to Spain, but what happens when the younger players are asked to do too much, with management neglecting the importance of older figures in the squad?
You only need to look at Dortmund as one of the better examples. Players like Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are among the leading lights of a majestic generation of German talents. However, they’re all free from that greater level of responsibility and are given license to play the game without the weight of captaincy. Players like Sebastian Kehl and Roman Weidenfeller are indispensable for teams like that, where the larger percentage of the squad is younger talents but where older heads are necessary for guidance on the pitch.
Jack Wilshere needs players like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski. Fabregas didn’t have that help he needed. It wasn’t for lack of asking either, but for whatever reasons behind the scenes, Arsenal failed to provide necessary and invaluable additions.
Wilshere will become captain at Arsenal, and it should happen when everything is set up for him to inherit the armband. The last thing the club and the player need is a situation whereby the current captain is stripped of his title midway through the season and the pressure of expectation is heaped on the next in line without much notice.
It’s quite clear to tell how moved supporters are by watching Wilshere at the moment, and his performances are made even more significant due to the difficult period the club are in. But it would be far better to keep it this way, let the player have the freedom to play the game. There is no rush for official titles; Wilshere is already the leader of this team.