The power of the mind is unique. It has the capacity to adapt and invent, instigate and invigorate. With the mind comes the body, often by which dictates the future of the mind. Jack Wilshere, the man whose mind is failed by his body. The genius announced himself on the world stage over six years ago, against arguably the best team there’s ever been. It can often take a genius to notice a fellow genius. Widely ridiculed since, lambasted for ‘living off’ that famous February night, the Arsenal number 10 has found himself caught between a rock and a hard place. The options are crystal clear. Does the Englishman stay at the club his been at since the age of 9, or does he leave where he’s idolised in hope of reigniting his stagnating career?
Last Chance Saloon is a funny saying to reference the Gunner’s number 10 in, especially when you consider that the exact same question was rife among the English media last year. The question Wilshere proceeded to answer by treading unknown waters in the form of a loan move to Bournemouth. Negating the talent, which only the naive among supporters deny, to look at whether the move was a success, you have to look at the games played. For the Englishman, this was 27 league appearances (22 starts) out of a possible 38). When you consider he was ineligible to play against Arsenal, this reduces the number to 36. A feat he has only surpassed once in his entire career. The enigma that is Jack Wilshere transcends norms. The best football Arsenal have produced in the last 10 years has all come with the 25 year old in the side, (2010/11, 2013/14.) Solving the mystery is understanding whether gambling on a talent such as Wilshere, who is no longer the young talent that burst onto the scene, is a gamble worth taking.
With a year left on his contract, and no hint at a new deal being signed, the Gunners risk losing the dynamic midfielder on a free. Considering the likelihood of also losing both Alexis and Oxlade-Chamberlain on a free next summer, this is not a risk the Arsenal board may be willing to take. Arsenal would seek to bring in £20m plus from his transfer, funds many would argue should go towards buying a fully fit midfielder, suited to the mould Arsenal desire, such as Seri from OGC Nice. Of course, there will be the typical fans who argue “it isn’t my money, why do I care?”, but the board do. Faced with losing around £100m worth of talent on a free next summer, temptation may force the board to cave in.
Like many who commentate on Wilshere, what has been said thus far has been plagued by pessimism and cynicism. Understanding Jack Wilshere is understanding what he does have. The 25 year old oozes class, he and the ball are one. In-spite of the bulking up he has done in recent years, his low centre of gravity distorts time itself, leaving opposing players bewildered in the face of excellence personified. Very few midfielders in England have the passing range and dribbling variety Jack Wilshere possesses. This talent is nothing without fitting into the Arsenal puzzle though right? Thankfully, you need not concern yourself with this. In Granit Xhaka, Arsenal have a combative yet graceful deep-lying playmaker. His flaw? Bringing the team up the pitch with speed, in the most literal sense. In the Gunner’s number 10 you have the ready-made partner for the Swiss international. Capable of playing intricate one-twos with the Arsenal #29, he can, with short, deft movement, instigate attacks with both his passing and his explosive dribbling, directly compensating for Xhaka’s weakness, whilst utilising his strength.
With a ruthless 2017/18 season imminent, Arsenal already have a midfield crisis. With only Elneny and Xhaka fit. There is a notorious ineffectiveness of the Arsenal board to both allow for departures and bring in the players we need simultaneously. Should Arsenal sign a midfielder? Certainly. But does this mean Wilshere should be discarded to compensate for such an arrival? Certainly not. Whatever this season throws up at the Gunners, what can be a certainty is injuries. When injuries arrive, you want talent ready in the background to supply reinforcement to the depleted armoury. In Jack Wilshere, there is the man ready to go to war on the front lines, or quietly wait until more troops are needed. For Arsenal’s sake, he should be kept.