Jack Wilshere will not be playing in the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland this week. Instead, Wilshere has returned to the under-21s, much to the apparent anger of fans across the land.
A number of factors have contributed to this sudden urge to promote a relatively young and inexperienced player into the senior squad. Firstly the players own form: during both his spell on loan at Bolton last season, and the start to this season back at the Emirates, Wilshere has impressed with vibrancy, good link-up play and a range of passing.
Secondly, England’s poor performance at the World Cup is being seen as a catalyst to start again from scratch, casting aside older players for younger, hungrier talents. Under these ideals, someone like Michael Carrick should give way to Wilshere.
Thirdly, there has consistently been a clamour for more technically gifted players to be introduced into the England set-up. In South Africa, much of England’s football was stunted and unimaginative. In the little time that we have seen him play, Jack Wilshere has shown he has fantastic technique, and there is a hope that those around him will follow suit.
Fabio Capello will surely phase in new, younger players over the next qualifying stage. As well as Wilshere, Michael Dawson, Kieron Gibbs (although Ashley Cole’s place is still nailed on) and Adam Johnson will become more and more important to the England cause. I say ‘surely’ out of hope as much as expectation; I can’t imagine why one wouldn’t. If there is one positive to be taken out of a poor tournament, it is the opportunity to make the changes Capello might have been unsure about making beforehand, but were no doubt on his mind.
However, there still must be a sense of perspective. Wilshere is still only 18, and has played less than 30 league games in his career. There is no worth, for Arsenal or England, in pushing him through as many fixtures as possible. And by the same token, there is no problem in fazing him into the senior squad bit by bit, in between stints in the under-21s, just like what was done with James Milner.
Whether the picture you are looking at is big or small, there can be logic in taking things slowly with Wilshere’s career. Not being in the upcoming squad does not mean that he won’t be playing in the Euros in two years’ time. It would also be idiotic to think that it has any indication on the rest of career, beyond that competition. There is still much development to be done, and a lot of that can be achieved over the next two seasons that have to be played before the next major international competition.
Throwing Wilshere into the starting eleven for the senior England team this week will not make a significant difference to the team that we saw in the summer. Capello has picked 11 players that didn’t go to South Africa in this squad, proof that changes are being made. What we as fans can do, is help not to lay the hopes of a nation onto the shoulders of an 18-year-old boy.
Wilshere will be an integral part of the England team for the next ten years and beyond, of that I have no doubt. If we can appreciate that that is the timescale we are dealing with, then hopefully we can also appreciate that not being a part of this squad doesn’t mean he won’t be in the next one, or the one after that, or that, or that. Wilshere’s place in the Arsenal first team isn’t even yet a certainty, and so let’s give a young talent the time to grow, rather than stretch him till he snaps.
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