Jack Wilshere of Arsenal Football Club
I was totally gutted by Jack Wilshere's announcement last night that he is leaving Arsenal. Wilshere is the one player left in the squad who genuinely seems to understand what it means to play for The Arsenal. I first saw Jack play when Arsenal briefly had their own TV channel on Sky. He was this 15 year-old genius playing in the youth and reserve teams. From the beginning it was clear that he was a level or three above everyone else on the pitch. When he made his first-team debut at Blackburn (where I was in the away end) there was no real surprise that he'd made such progress as to be playing for Arsenal at 16. His remarkable talent and ability saw him probably over-exposed at that level and too much football while still physically developing had an adverse effect on his body and what it could withstand. He was hampered by injury but his ever-present ability was always there to be seen. A number of those injuries, incidentally, weren't caused by over-playing but by terrible fouls made on him. For someone so small he never took a backward step and he would put everything on the line for Arsenal. This season he proved his fitness back at Arsenal after a year wasted at Bournemouth when he should have been back in our own midfield. That he isn't at the World Cup says more about the dishonest Southgate than it does about Our Jack.
I am quite simply amazed that Unai Emery should choose to tell Wilshere he's basically no longer wanted. It was bad enough that he was offered (and had accepted) a pay cut at a time when Ozil, Elneny and Xhaka have all signed improved deals. On what planet does the new boss see Xhaka as a better or more important Arsenal player than Jack Wilshere? I've actually seen Arsenal supporters online today who've spent all season lamenting the fact Wenger would never leave out Granit Xhaka now commending Emery for keeping him and kicking out Jack!
In my lifetime there have been three genuinely special talents to come through the ranks at Arsenal from a child to the first-team. Two of them are David Rocastle and Ashley Cole, the other is Jack Wilshere. My Dad has always said that Jack is the best youngster he's seen at Arsenal since Liam Brady. He also said it's just our luck that he suffered so many injuries. Having come through, just like Rocky, Jack absolutely just "got it" where the fans are concerned. He is an Arsenal Man through and through. As I've said here before, to me he should be the Arsenal Captain and it is way past my comprehension tonight that the game against Burnley was the last time I will see him play for Arsenal. I can only wish him all the luck he deserves for the rest of his career but I fear, just like Rocastle, that his heart will never truly be in it anywhere else.
In the title to this piece I've mentioned "perspective" and by that I mean let's take a critical look at the recruitment we've seen since the new Manager arrived. Let me say before I go in to this that I'm willing to give Emery the chance to impress us with his new team, but my confidence in him has been jolted greatly by this Wilshere business.
Let's look at this objectively - Arsenal fans would almost all say that we needed a right-back of some standing, a new goalkeeper, a centre-back and a proper defensive midfield player. On the face of it Emery (or more probably the Gazidis appointed "team" behind the scenes) have done just that. Lichtsteiner has arrived to challenge Bellerin, Bernd Leno was announced last night as our new goalkeeper and Sokratis and Torreira will be announced in due course. All four boxes ticked. Or are they?
Let's just roll the clock back here and say that Arsene Wenger was still the boss, but the new people up top were signing these four players. Instead of excitement or anticipation most of us would be complaining that we've signed a 34 year-old full-back on a free, a goalkeeper who isn't among the three that Germany have taken to the World Cup, a journeyman Greek defender from Dortmund and a midfield player who can't get in the Uruguay side and plays for the team that finished 10th in Serie A. Puts a bit of a different spin on things doesn't it? So for all those praising the Club for the way things have "changed" I would suggest that looking at it from this angle ought to open a few eyes. These signings must be given the opportunity under the new Manager to develop and hopefully be successful, but we might still be guilty of shopping at Asda when the top clubs are carrying Harrods bags down Knightsbridge.
Let's also throw one more thing in to the mix here. Aaron Ramsey, in the absence of Jack Wilshere, simply HAS to be made Arsenal Captain. However, Aaron Ramsey is out of contract this time next year. Arsenal can't let him go for free so if he doesn't sign a new deal in the next few weeks he will have to be sold. So Jack and Aaron could both go within weeks of one another. Where does that leave us? Along with Cazorla being released Arsenal would have lost their three best midfield players but kept on average players like Elneny and Xhaka. Still excited for what lies ahead? I'm bloody petrified.