x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Jack Wilshere is the way forward for Arsenal

The young braveheart with a never-say-die attitude is someone the Gunners could do with.

Jack Wilshere, centre, is key for Arsenal as long as he takes care of his body.
Jack Wilshere, centre, is key for Arsenal as long as he takes care of his body.

Jack Wilshere is vital for the future of Arsenal and England. Arsenal missed him badly when he's been out injured.

The midfielder was on his way to becoming the best English player of his generation when he suffered a stress fracture in his ankle which ended up plaguing him for 14 months until he returned to action a few weeks ago.

Wilshere is only 20, but he has got something special about him.

Pep Guardiola paid him a compliment when he said that Barcelona try to produce footballers like Wilshere, who knows how to manipulate the ball, keeps it simple, has great vision, is not flashy and isn't afraid to put his foot in.

It is that quality which I first noticed when he was excelling on loan at Bolton Wanderers. He can take a tackle, too.

I saw one player go in hard when he was at Bolton. Wilshere didn't squeal, but shrugged it off and wanted to get on with the game as soon as possible.

The way he played, he should have been at Arsenal, not Bolton who, no surprise, wanted to keep him for another year.

He could have kept them up. He is that good.

Arsenal wanted him back though and they needed a bit of English heart in their side.

They are an English club and with all the foreign players, they sometimes miss what English players bring - a big heart and never-say-die attitude.

Arsenal have some really gifted players, but it is natural fans identify with local players who know all about the history of the club and play the way they had like to if they were on the field.

You need more of that and less flashiness at Arsenal.

I wouldn't wish serious injuries on any player, but if you are going to have them then they are best while you are young.

Wilshere is still a boy and nothing fazes you when you are young. Your recovery times are quicker and you don't think too deeply about problems like you do when you are older.

Having just become a father, he has also got a baby boy to look after, so it is not like Wilshere will have had too much time to brood.

You can also deal with an injury or two, but it gets a lot harder coming to terms with your sixth or seventh serious injury, like some professional footballers have to.

That is when you start playing mind games with yourself, when the little doubting man sitting on your shoulders says: "Are you sure the manager still rates you?" "What if you don't get a new contract?" Or "Am I rushing my comeback here?"

Trust me, I have been there.

The worst thing about being injured is that you miss out on the training-room banter, the laughs and the wisecracks with the other players.

Replacing that is the mundane cycle of rehabilitation with a friendly physio or two. You badly miss the fresh air, for your recovery is all indoors. You might still be at the club and still be getting paid every week, but every injured player feels like he's out of sight and out of mind.

Wilshere has come though all that, he is back and charged with injecting some much needed life into a club who have been treading water for too long.

A club of Arsenal's size, history and support should be winning trophies, not going seven years without silverware.

They are the second-best supported team in England, with average home crowds of 60,000, 10,000 more than Newcastle, in third.

They may not have Manchester City or Chelsea's billionaires - or maybe they do and their two leading shareholders just don't want to spend it.

Whatever, it is the same story year after year for Arsenal. They finish in the top four, they reach the knock-out stages in the Champions League. And that is it.

The cycle is showing no sign of changing and I had be intrigued to know what Arsenal say to potential signings.

Do they tell them they are serious about winning trophies, or do they tell them the truth, namely that second-best will do?

That if they do really well, then Arsenal is the perfect final stepping stone before they leave for a club where they will actually win silverware?

Arsenal's troubles seem to stem from the top, where rival billionaire shareholders cannot agree on what is right for the club.

If they have got anything about them they will hang on to Wilshere, because if Arsenal manage to keep hold of all their best players, they might actually be in with a shout of winning a trophy.

Wilshere, meanwhile, will get another big test today - away at Old Trafford, where Arsenal lost 8-2 last season.


Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of the European football correspondent Andy Mitten.


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