It's now or never for Jack Wilshere's Arsenal career
The next big English superstar was once how many would have described Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. Now, he is another player entering the last year of his current contract with the Gunners and the speculation over his future has been at the forefront of many Arsenal supporters and English football supporters' minds.
To say that Wilshere hasn't fully reached his highest level would be an understatement, though so many factors have contributed to how his career has panned out to date. His early career saw comparisons, to Liam Brady and similar talent as England's Glenn Hoddle when talking in context to his international career, both now, he seems so far off from where he should be.
The injuries that Wilshere has endured for so much of his career have been highly unfortunate, especially when you consider that he is now 25 years old and broke into the Arsenal team at the tender age of 16. He has made only 161 appearances for Arsenal since making his debut.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have faced a lot of criticism for the frequent injuries picked up by their players and Wilshere has been the main sufferer of whatever was/is potentially going wrong behind the scenes at Arsenal.
His attitude can sometimes contribute to how he goes in for a tackle or if he stretches into tackles where the automatic reaction is that doesn’t look happy, though signs from last season at Bournemouth is that he looks more educated as to when to put a foot in to win the ball or stretching too far to win the ball back, where he has always looked vulnerable.
Wilshere has been deployed in many roles in the Arsenal team over the years, attacking midfielder, in a front three, left midfield and his best position is in the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
When looking at the Arsenal team, especially the back end of last season and at the start of the current season, they have been playing the three at the back system, four in midfield and the front three, a system that did initially work well but was found out.
The start of the season has seen Wilshere recovering from his latest setback after suffering a hairline crack of his left fibula in April during his indifferent loan spell at Bournemouth, his return to fitness was marred by the sending off he received during an Arsenal U23 game against Manchester City U23, really showing the frustration that was building up within the England international.
The Arsenal central midfield is not entirely blessed with world class ability to prevent Wilshere from breaking in. Granit Xhaka has not looked anything like the player that he was during his time at Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany. Aaron Ramsey is a supremely talented player but as an out and out central midfielder. he isn't a complete package.
Francis Coquelin is the best holding midfield option that Arsenal have but he does lack the ability with the ball at his feet and Mohamed Elneny has shown glimpses but is nowhere near consistent enough to be the main man in that central midfield area.
Step forward Jack Wilshere, perhaps the best central midfield option that Arsene Wenger has at his disposal. Wilshere has the ability to play different roles in the central midfield position He isn't a pure holding midfielder but with the intelligence on the pitch, Wilshere has the know how to drop into positions and knows when to push forward.
His ability on the ball is second to none and he is perhaps Arsenal’s Marco Verratti in terms of his best role. In terms of ability, Wilshere is without question the best out and out central midfielder within the club. Can he stay injury free and concentrate solely on reaching his full potential is the most important question, though.
Watching Wilshere replace the uninspiring Iwobi against FC Köln was a breath of fresh air, the reception he received from the Arsenal faithful was brilliant to see, showing that the fans still have Wilshere in their hearts.
Pushed slightly further forward, Wilshere was measured in everything he did on the pitch for his 20-minute cameo. His accuracy of passing was exquisite. He lost the ball just once and showed his tenacious nature to win back possession for the Gunners. The dummy he sold on the FC Köln defenders at the edge of their own box was so intelligent, thereby taking two defenders completely out of the game which should have resulted in another Arsenal goal.
Importantly for Arsenal and the Arsenal fans, there looks a very good relationship on the pitch between Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere. Sanchez stole the headlines from the first game of the Europa League for Arsenal. However, watching Arsenal during the final 20 minutes of the match was a joy to any neutral football supporter.
The rest of the first half of this season will dictate what happens next for Jack Wilshere and his future at the Emirates. With Roy Hodgson taking charge of Crystal Palace, there has been a link straight away with Jack Wilshere joining him during the January transfer window, especially with Wilshere being the vocal point of Hodgson’s England team.
This would certainly be a move that would ensure Wilshere is given every opportunity to play the minutes he would need to convince England manager Gareth Southgate to take him to the World Cup in the summer. However, Wilshere is an Arsenal lad and during that season long loan last year with Bournemouth, we never saw that same desire that we see when he is playing regularly for Arsenal or for his country.
The big hope is that Wilshere can stay clear of injuries this season, because this could potentially be his year; he looks hungry to play and Arsenal would really benefit from having him in the heart of their midfield dictating games and leading the players around him, then move forward and represent England at the World Cup in Russia. This is a big season ahead for the Jack Wilshere it could have a bearing on his future at the Emirates.