With another accomplished, and at times quite brilliant, performance under his belt against Shakhtar Donetsk, another international call-up in the offing and Arsene Wenger praising his maturity as being “light years ahead of his age”, things are coming nicely to the boil for Jack Wilshere.
After the furore that surrounded his tackle on Nikola Žigić at the weekend, the 18 year-old attracted positive attention with an excellent display alongside Cesc Fabregas in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield in Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League clash at the Emirates Stadium. Wilshere’s first career sending-off overshadowed what was a rounded display by the youngster against Birmingham City at the weekend, so it was imperative the 18 year-old let the less controversial aspects of his game do the talking against the Ukrainians.
Wilshere, known more for his technical ability and comfort on the ball, has come into criticism about the uglier side of his game, with many questioning his robust tackling. But after the disappointment of Saturday’s fixture, Wilshere looked unaffected against Shakhtar Donetsk, finishing off a wonderful passing move and slotting in perfectly alongside Arsenal captain and World Cup winner, Cesc Fabregas.
In this central midfield pairing, Arsene Wenger clearly thinks he has found a winning formula, stating that he was “convinced it work[ed] well”, but with the rumours linking Fabregas with a move to his childhood club Barcelona not abating, is Wilshere being groomed to fill a Fabregas-shaped hole at Arsenal?
The answer to this question is most probably yes, but the more pertinent question must be, is he ready? On an individual level I would say yes, but with some reservations, however with regards to Arsenal as a club, I would say no. Wilshere, although not the same player as Fabregas, undoubtedly has the talent to run Arsenal’s midfield, and despite being young in years, his mature approach after the Žigić challenge shows that sometimes maturity does not necessarily equate to age. Having said that, were Fabregas to leave, Wilshere’s inexperience would soon be exposed and the only way to eradicate this is for the 18 year-old to get more games under his belt; something which is happening every week.
However, even with Wilshere, Arsenal would greatly miss Fabregas, not least because a January departure would reveal a midfield rather thin on the ground, especially with the long-term lay-off of Aaron Ramsey and the inconsistent form of other young players, such as Abou Diaby and Denilson.
With the talent and maturity Wilshere possesses, if Arsenal can get another season out of Fabregas with the 18 year-old England midfielder under his wing, the north London giants may yet move seamlessly into life without the joy of Cesc.