Don’t tell Arsenal’s number 10 you’ve written him off, it’s a dangerous game to play. Setbacks build character, they built the man Wilshere wanted to become, the man Wilshere needed to become. The curtains had drawn on the enigmatic midfielder’s career, but he’s refused to let the crowd forget what he is, the performer, the magician that they were mesmerised by. The poet, the constructor of beauty, he was not bowing out without a fight.

Trudging back from his battle on the south coast in 2016/17, one would be forgiven for believing that gracing the Arsenal shirt was a distant memory for Wilshere, floating away into the ocean of unfulfilled potential. Whilst detractors made a mockery of the floating ship of potential, the Englishman was navigating the ship, inexorably steering it back on course. As the tide settled, the Gunner’s number 10 began to grasp control of his fate, beginning in the Europa League. Albeit mediocre opposition, any opposing team was left dumbfounded, chasing the esoteric dream of controlling Wilshere’s destiny. The clearest sign yet that the ship was back on course was against Bate Borisov. Dictating the course of the game, class oozed from the mesmeric midfielder, topping off an exquisite performance with his first goal since May 2015 (a misleading stat considering injuries and his loan).

Wilshere wearing the captain’s armband is a site Gunner’s fans would love getting used to

‘It’s only Bate, get a grip’ is the inevitable response from those hell-bent on reinforcing their anti-Wilshere agenda by any means necessary. Class is apparent regardless of opposition, touches of elegance will baffle a defender of any level if executed effectively. The trademark drop of the shoulder followed by a deft swivel was still engrained in the core of the Englishman. However, there is now a distinct cleverness to his play, a balance between maintaining the ball manipulation and drive he is widely acclaimed for, whilst avoiding the detrimental injuries as a consequence. Now is an engrained subconscious radar as to the probability of harm being caused, a balancing act created. Wilshere still flies into challenges, still drives past 3 defenders with ease before being clattered by the fourth, but it is now done with prior calculation. The revered Arsenal man now knows if in a jeopardising situation, how to react. Whether this be positioning his body in a certain manner, such as when West Ham’s Mark Noble clipped his toe, a situation previously where Wilshere would have left himself further exposed.

Against West Ham, Jack showed the Gunner’s faithful glimpses of what they’ve missed.

On the topic of West Ham, a dire result. However, in the midst of this shambolic performance, and the inevitable disillusionment on behalf of the fans was an Englishman. This Englishman had turned the ship of potential around, and was pushing against the tide that had found itself returning with force. He was injecting pace, producing drive, battling tirelessly. Whilst those around him remained stagnant, Wilshere’s first thought was ‘how can I change this game?’. Unfortunately it was to no avail, with his surrounding teammates, on the most part, failing to deliver similar commitment levels. This isn’t to excuse the adored Gunner’s number 10 either, as he very well could have handed Arsenal a victory as he skewed a chance over the crossbar from 10 yards. The difference is he was the player on that pitch who had his back against the wall, and needed to come out fighting. Whilst you have Alexis stroll around throwing tantrums with six months on his contract, you have Wilshere who’s not only performing to a level thought to have been past him, but playing with fight, hunger and passion. Do these qualities make a footballer? No. However, add these qualities into a gifted talisman and the consequent creation is what Arsenal need. A catalyst to ignite a stagnating season.

Will we see the Englishman in the XI regularly now? Who knows. Ramsey’s seasonal hamstring issue has opened the pathway to the starting XI. Having managed to fight against the tide, having proved detractors wrong, all is now down to Jack. Every time he steps onto a canvas, whether it be home or away, he is a boxer, a fighter, that the footballing world thought was down for the count. The detractors were wrong… Jack’s Back.

Written by Jake Lennard

Instagram: JakeLennard

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