This Summer Jack Wilshere will officially cross the boundary line from promising youngster to senior professional. At the age of 22, he will no longer be an “Under 21” player in terms of regulations and will have to be named in the senior list in Arsenal’s Premier League squad next season.
With his maiden participation in the World Cup on the horizon, not to mention Saturday’s FA Cup Final in which he will attempt to win his first senior trophy, now seems an appropriate time to assess Wilshere’s career so far, particularly in the wake of the comments made by Paul Scholes, who suggested that Wilshere hasn’t developed since he first broke onto the scene during the 2010/11 season.
Injuries have certainly been a contributing factor in Wilshere’s career so far. He missed the entire 2011/12 campaign and, since then, has struggled with niggling problems that have threatened to beset his progress.
There has been criticism of his playing style, too, with some suggesting that he holds onto the ball for too long on occasion, leaving his side vulnerable to counter-attacks. With Aaron Ramsey thriving and Mesut Ozil hardly likely to relinquish his star status any time soon, Wilshere may well be faced with a difficult task in terms of reasserting himself in the Arsenal starting line-up.
Earlier this season he was often forced to play out wide so that he could fit into the team, but his best performances for the club, most memorably against Barcelona in 2011, have come when he has been deployed in a deep-lying midfield position.
When he first burst onto the scene as a 16 year old with some sensational performances for the Reserves and then during the first-team’s pre-season preparations in 2008, Wilshere appeared to be a player who possessed all the attributes to make it to the very top of the professional game.
Six years on he has not yet reached the lofty heights some may have envisaged, but the Hale End product has still achieved some notable accolades, representing the Arsenal first-team on over 130 occasions, whilst also being named the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011.
Ramsey, who joined Arsenal the same Summer that Wilshere was integrated into the first-team squad, has demonstrated that perceptions surrounding players, particularly those in their early twenties, can alter very quickly indeed. Just two seasons ago some of the criticisms currently being labelled at Wilshere regarding his form could just have easily applied to Ramsey.
The long-term vision was always that both Ramsey and Wilshere would be cornerstones of the Arsenal midfield for the foreseeable future. That aim could still come to fruition, but Wilshere will be hoping for much better luck on the injury front next season as he attempts to emulate Ramsey’s recent heroics.
An impressive World Cup would certainly help alter the wider perception of Wilshere, but, regardless, his qualities as a footballer have always been obvious. His ball control and passing ability is exemplary, and, at a time when fewer and fewer young English players are being given opportunities at elite Premier League clubs, he has succeeded in making the considerably challenging journey from a youth team player to a first-team regular.
The next step will be for Wilshere to improve his consistency. He has enhanced his goal tally, finding the net five times this campaign, and he will hope to enjoy even greater success during 2014/15.