Just when Arsenal thought they could look forward to a summer without anyone attempting to poach their biggest stars – see the Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie sagas of 2011 and 2012 respectively – along come Manchester City with an audacious plan to steal a player who has been at the club all his life.
The Citizens are set to strengthen considerably in the coming weeks as they look to put up a decent fight for the Premier League crown that they surrendered so feebly last season, and if they fail in their bid to lure Liverpool’s unsettled forward Raheem Sterling from Anfield to the Etihad, then they could turn their sights towards a certain Jack Wilshere.
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At 23 years of age, Wilshere is the poster boy for the new Arsenal generation. There may be flashier and better known players in the current squad, but Wilshere is the born-and-bred Gunner, the Steven Gerrard of north London who many fans hope can one day captain the side and lead them to glory.
Losing the midfielder to one of their biggest rivals would arguably be a greater loss than both Fabregas and van Persie not only due to Wilshere’s close, long-standing connections to the club, but also because Arsenal are showing signs that they are becoming a side that can once again seriously challenge for the title.
Selling Wilshere would undermine the work done over the past two years to bring success back to the club, and may see many of Arsenal’s stars wondering whether they can truly compete at the very top level at the Emirates Stadium.
City are willing to offer their target up to £150,000-a-week to make the move north, which would represent a vast salary increase on his current £90,000-a-week deal. Wilshere still has three years remaining on his contract, which has led to the Arsenal hierarchy expressing confidence that they will not be bullied into having to cash in or increase his wages to stave the threat of an offer from City.
However, money speaks louder than loyalty in modern football, and Arsenal ought to be very careful about adopting such a naive approach. No matter how long he has been at the club, the prospect of nearly doubling his salary at City will be hugely appealing for Wilshere, and Arsenal must surely want to avoid him becoming another in a long line of former Gunners (Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna) who have made the switch to City, enticed by their enviable riches.
While there is still room for improvement in Wilshere’s game, his two-goal performance for England away to Slovenia last week – not to mention his spectacular strike for Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion on the last day of the season – shows that he is a player with huge potential. If the Gunners wish to re-emerge as a major force in English football, they must do all they can to keep Wilshere at the club – even if that means matching the financial might of Manchester City.