Opinion: Why Arsenal Would Prefer Jack Wilshere Playing At The Euros
Another night passes, another morning dawns. And the seemingly interminable wait for the City Circus to roll into town edges ever closer towards its’ conclusion.
Chelsea made it through to the Champions League semis after beating 10-man Benfica last night. Based on yesterday’s performance, you feel the Blues will be lambs to slaughter against Barcelona in the next round. As far as Arsenal are concerned, it means the chavs will play Spuds, Barca and us within a seven-day span from 15-21 April. It’ll be a massive week for Chelsea. The Blues could be knocked out of the FA Cup and on the back foot in Europe, as well as having their hopes for a Champions League spot next season dented at the Emirates.
Onto the Arsenal, and Jack Wilshere is two or three weeks away from playing in the first team again, depending on what you read. The English midfielder was supposed to feature in a closed-door Reserves friendly with Birmingham City yesterday, but was withdrawn at the last minute. Arsenal are said to be lining up a few more off-calendar friendlies against reserve sides, so that Jack can make a return before the end of the season.
Arsene Wenger has previously spoken positively of Wilshere’s chances of making the England squad for the Euros. Opinion is divided on whether Jack should be risked for the high-intensity games in Poland/Ukraine after missing almost the entire season. I think there are multiple factors for the manager’s preference to see the young midfielder at Euro 2012.
Firstly, it is Wilshere’s own burning desire to play for England. He has stated many times in the past how much he values playing for his country, rating winning the World Cup with England better than a Champions League medal with Arsenal.
Secondly, the timing of Euro 2012 does not affect Arsenal’s pre-season schedule in the way that London 2o12 does. The Euros end by 1st July, while the Olympic football events are scheduled between 25th July and 11th August. A couple of weeks ago, Arsene clearly stated that he prefers Jack going to the Euros over the Olympics. Maybe the manager feels that participation in Europe would mean he’ll be left out of the British squad, especially if England can go deep into the European tournament. There is also a possibility of JW coming back with slight niggles, which would also preclude involvement in the Olympics.
Thirdly, Arsenal have already lined up lucrative far-east friendlies in late July, one of them against Manchester City at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Arsenal will want Jack Wilshere to be on the plane to Hongkong and China, such is his fan following among younger supporters in that part of the world. And it’s not only the selling of shirts which will concern Wenger. The Frenchman will be keen to use the trip as a team bonding opportunity and will want all his key players present.
Lastly, I think Wenger will view the Euros as a testing ground for Wilshere’s form. While Jack’s talent is obvious to see, the fact is that the young midfielder has had one fantastic breakthrough season and then been sidelined completely for another. We all hope JW19 hits the ground running, but there is a possibility that he may take time to rediscover the form he displayed prior to his injury. There is also a possibility that he may suffer setbacks in his rehabilitation.
I think Arsenal would prefer to find out about Jack Wilshere’s form and fitness sooner rather than later in the summer. Because it may have an impact on Wenger’s transfer dealings.
Right now, all the talk is about a defensive midfielder to shore up the Arsenal spine. But in that creative midfield role, Ramsey hasn’t displayed great form recently, Rosicky will not be expected to play every game next season, Abou Diaby’s involvement is never guaranteed and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may not be ready yet to assume the playmaker’s role.
That leaves us pinning our hopes firmly on Jack’s return, and the earlier he starts playing, the more time the manager has before transfer deadline day to gauge whether another creative midfielder is required for the coming season.
In other news, I really liked Robin van Persie’s interview a few days ago, where he spoke about how Arsene Wenger gave him the belief that he could perform as the main striker. It highlights a few characteristics of the Frenchman that do not get appreciated enough – his unwavering faith in his players, his patience when their performances do not yield immediate results, his shielding of them from criticism.
I have absolutely no doubt that in three years time, Aaron Ramsey will give a similar interview and reveal how Arsene gave him the confidence not to quit football after supporters called for him to be thrown into the River Thames with an anchor around his ankles following a defeat at QPR in March 2012.
While you’ll have to wait a few years for that Ramsey interview, my next post will be up tomorrow. Do come back then.