Just over three years ago, Jack Wilshere was handed the iconic number seven shirt for England before the World Cup finals in Brazil. Two more years down the the line, in 2011, the Arsenal man made huge headlines all across Europe during his breakthrough season, particularly after his performances against the best team of the time – Barcelona.
The 19-year-old Englishman had become a vital player for Arsenal and his quality & importance was further reflected against Barcelona that very season. What followed was praise & acknowledgement from none other than England’s manager at the time – Fabio Capello. Wilshere’s talent and more than anything his confidence and personality on the pitch struck Capello enough to reflect praise.
"I followed him. I monitored him during the game in Barcelona." Capello said. "Against the most difficult team, one of the best teams of all, he played the same game, with the same confidence that he did in the first leg in London. Then Arsenal won. The second time it was more difficult."
Capello soon recalled from his past experiences in the game and recognised Wilshere’s remarkable reluctance to be intimidated on the pitch at that age.
"I remember two defenders, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi, and one attacker, Raul, who was 19 at Real Madrid, but for personality and confidence on the pitch, he (Wilshere) is the best young midfielder I have seen for his age." Said Cappello.
"He will be England captain one day," Capello added. "Jack Wilshere needs more caps but he is a real leader."
What happened since?
Wilshere’s talent is unquestionable, however, his injury record ever since his breakthrough in 2011 has been nothing short of disastrous. In Brazil, he found it hard to break into the England line-up due to lack of fitness and could only get one game for the Three Lions which also depended on another nation’s result.
Two years later in 2016, he followed that up with an average campaign at the European Championships, again facing the same recurring fitness issues.
Wilshere’s situation with the Three Lions is more or less a shadow of his struggles at club level. Extremely encouraging starts have unfortunately only ended in injury and despair for the midfielder. The 25-year-old has been forced off the pitch to nurse hairline cracks in his calfbone twice in the last three seasons due to which he missed a huge chunk of Arsenal’s games.
Wilshere had featured just eight times for the Gunners in the past two seasons leading up to last season, where everything changed. The player, after a mutual agreement with manager Arsene Wenger, joined Bournemouth on a season long loan for the 2016/17 Premier League campaign in search of regular gametime.
Wilshere’s time at Bournemouth had been rather encouraging, contradictory to common belief. He was sent out on loan with one main objective – to rack up as many games as he can under his belt and prove his fitness for as long as possible, something which he fairly accomplished. Including his two cameos for Arsenal before heading out on loan last season, Wilshere managed to feature a good 29 times in the league for the South Coast outfit, 20 out of which were from the off – his best Premier League tally so far since the 2010-11 season.
Wenger has always held Wilshere’s talent in high regard and has shown faith in his quality ever since giving him the chance to play in the first team aged 16 years and 256 days which made him Arsenal's youngest-ever league debutant.
What could happen next?
With Wilshere’s contract at Arsenal running down in a year’s time - Wenger’s decision to retain the Englishman and give him one last chance to stay and convince the club and the fans via his performances, coupled with a revitalizing stint at Bournemouth last season, should be a cause for enough hope and motivation on Wilshere’s part, who, by the end of this season has his World Cup chances on the line again.
Arsenal’s fixture list and Wenger’s willingness to play Wilshere, will ensure game-time at least in the Europa League and the Cup competitions. It’s now up to Wilshere to grab, what could be his last chance at Arsenal, by the scruff of it’s neck and force his way through into Arsenal’s Premier League starting eleven eventually earning a new deal at the club and making it onto the Three Lions’ roster in Russia next summer.