Wenger must build around Wilshere to end trophy drought

After he was crowned PFA Young Footballer of the Year, writes on the importance of building a team around Jack Wilshere as Arsenal try to end their barren years without a trophy

Image: Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr Creative Commons

Image: Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr Creative Commons

On the 21st September 1994, Paul Scholes, the man Xavi called “the best player of his generation”, scored twice against Port Vale on his debut for Manchester United. Seeing his tired, petulant display against his city rivals in the FA Cup on Saturday you could be forgiven for forgetting the vivacity and skill that Scholes used to bring to the table. Football truly is a young man’s game now and this fact is epitomised by Jack Wilshere, who has a half century of club appearances and a full international debut under his belt at the same age that his Mancunian elder was just starting down the road to greatness.

Scholes, along with Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, was one of the pillars that Alex Ferguson built Manchester United’s recent eminence on. A near constant in their every triumph his complete mastery of playing as a central midfielder has only grown to be doubted in the last couple of years, and even then Scholes has had flurries where he has channelled his younger self, notably at the beginning of this season.

If Arsenal are to make their admirable experiment in youth and romance come to fruition in the form of silverware they will need a player of a similar ilk. With Cesc Fabregas seemingly Barcelona bound, and increasingly injury prone, it is time for Arsene Wenger to look inward at the flaws in his team rather than at the perceived injustice levelled at Arsenal from referees and “anti-football” naysayers.

Next year will be a huge turning point for the Gunners. With Stan Kroenke now in control sucess may be demanded in a sterner tone than under the previous, more disparate regime. When a foreign owner becomes synonymous with a club, as is the case under Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, they require trophies to sate their ego. Wenger has enormous reserves of good will capital to stave off the threat of the sack, but even he must be feeling the pressure of what looks to be another barren season.

Wilshere is the youthful, dynamic vision of the future for the Gunners and deserved winner of the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Should Fabregas leave then even more responsibility will be heaped upon his young shoulders. Given his performances this season perhaps responsibility is the stimulus he reacts best to – it has been his maturity and assurance against the best teams in the world that has marked him out, rather than a prodigous Rooney-esque explosivity.

Given his head next year he could be a potent attacking threat. His passing is laser guided and he also has the intricate footwork of a midfielder like Deco or Luka Modric that sees him slalom out of even the tightest, most well defended corners. If he can add 10 to 15 goals per season to his repertoire, not an easy feat by any measurement, then he will be the complete midfielder. Fabio Capello has already entrusted him with playing for his country. Now Arsene Wenger must make him the lynchpin of the Arsenal side.

Unlike some of his counterparts he rarely goes missing in important scenarios, suggesting a mental toughness that is seemingly the only barrier to Arsenal trophies. With the pace of Theo Walcott and the guile of Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey the North Londoners have the core of a formidable midfield. With the addition of one or two players in key positions a glum period could turn into an illustrious dynasty.

11 comments

  1. Frank Lampard is the best midfielder ever to play the game. Wilshere is a poor mans Jody Morris.

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  2. lampard is good yeah, but he aint that good rofl, get a clue.

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  3. I must say that this ‘Nana’ Fella does not know anything about football. I thought he’d say something like he was as good as Jack. If Asante Kotoko had enough money, i’d talk to them to try and sign Jack. He’ll be an excellent addition to the premier league in Ghana.

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  4. 19 Apr ’11 at 4:57 pm

    Literally A Greyhound

    Interesting for Ramsey next season. Not seen much of him so not sure where he’s best but you’d think Song/Wilshere is a fairly locked in partnership. I was expecting Nasri to be moved into Fabregas’ position if Cesc does go to Barca. Which only leaves the bench.

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  5. 19 Apr ’11 at 6:49 pm

    The Great Eboue

    Decent article, although for the ‘core of a formidable midfield’ to form another holding midfielder needs to be bought to accompany Song, as Denilson simply isn’t up to the job of covering. Ditto for a keeper, at least one truly reliable centre-back to accompany Vermaelen (if he’s not injured, that is), as Djourou, although impressive enough when stringing a run of games together, is injured far too often, whilst the less said about Koscielny and Squillaci the better. A guaranteed 25-a-season striker wouldn’t go amiss either. Nor would a relinquishing of the penchant to snatch defeats and draws from the jaws of victory. So, apart from all of the above, there’s not much Arsenal need really to go on and win the Premiership next season.

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  6. 20 Apr ’11 at 10:51 am

    Christopher Dodd

    “It is time for Arsene Wenger to look inward at the flaws in his team rather than at the perceived injustice levelled at Arsenal from referees and “anti-football” naysayers.” Very true, Jake.

    Henry Winter wrote pretty well on Arsène yesterday:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/arsenal/8459663/Henry-Winter-Arsenal-manager-Arsene-Wenger-must-open-his-eyes-and-make-his-team-accept-responsiblity.html

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  7. @ The Great Eboue

    Thanks for the comment Josh. I think a ‘keeper is the major problem for Arsenal now, although this maybe does a diservice to Szczesny who has been superb for his age and looked confident even in two games against Barca. I agree on cover for Song but not on the centre backs. I think Koscielny now looks assured after a shaky start and, partnered by Vermaelen, will be a top player. Also I think that Arsenal have a 25 goal a season striker in the shape of RVP, who has scored 11 in 13 since his return, he just needs to be lucky enough to stay fit. So I think you are right – there’s not much Arsenal need to win the Premier League.

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  8. I did read that article Chris, it was genius and I’m not even a Winter fan. It also formed part of a pretty big group of articles slating Arsene. I think that patience is fast running out in the media given that he is consistently graceless in defeat.

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  9. 20 Apr ’11 at 11:13 am

    Christopher Dodd

    He is also French.

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  10. 24 Apr ’11 at 3:39 pm

    The Great Eboue

    @Jake Farrell
    RVP is undeniably worth 25, 30 or 35 goals a season if fit throughout, but when has he been fit for a whole season? Hypothetically Arsenal already have a 25-a-season man, but in reality they have a potentially great striker who spends more time sat at home injured than on the pitch, a Moroccan who at best the jury is still out on, and, well, Bendtner.
    Arsenal may already have a great goalscorer in the team, but using the same logic Man Utd have the perfect engine room firefighter in the form of Hargreaves. Unfortunately he’s perenially crocked as well (although admittedly a different level of crocked to RVP), and just as Man Utd lack a top-class midfield destroyer, Arsenal do not have a consistent top goalscorer who will play 50 games a season.
    Sczesny does look good, and so does Koscielny sometimes, but surely you’d still want decent cover for the three good centre-backs Arsenal have – Koscielny (if you say so), Djourou and Vermaelen – especially given the injury records of the latter two? And asking a 20-year-old keeper, even one who looks as promising as Sczesny, to provide the foundation between the sticks for a title-winning charge is a lot to ask. Look at all the championship winning teams down the years, and you’ll find a rock solid goalkeeper (although this statement can be undermined slightly by the Di-Canio enabling figure of Barthez for Man Utd in the 2000 and 2001 title-winning campaigns maybe).
    Apart from the addition of a few players, it’s hard to argue that the ingredients are there for Arsenal to bag the title next season. But this has been said for years, and Arsenal should really have no excuses for not running away with the Premier League this year. It’s turning into a bit of a cliche to point the finger at Wenger, but his general demeanour and recent statements don’t exactly encourage a win-at-all costs mentality. That “happy to finish 2nd” comment was taken out of context, but then again you’d never here Mourinho or Ferguson come out with anything like that. Arsenal football club is an incredible institution, one of the few clubs that actually possesses a proper philosophy, of great football on the pitch and rare economic stability off it. But, like Fabregas was apparently alluding to, the main question seems to be whether the current Arsenal crop actually have the know-how, the belief and maybe even the right manager to go out and win something. If they do then next season shouldn’t be a problem.

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