Of all the mixed performances offered by their players in recent history, none epitomise Arsenal's fortunes like that of Jack Wilshere. That is because the 26-year-old is an infinitude, he represents everything good and everything bad in a central midfielder. At times the perfect playmaker, at times a puerile voyager. He contains all things.
Of the many compilations afforded thanks to football, Jack Wilshere is one outstanding YouTube hole. It provokes a 2 am notion that this compilation of deft touches and dogged tackling is precisely what England have been crying out for. The idea that he could be left out of the squad for Russia seems preposterous. Just look at that crunching challenge to the backdrop of a peaking Darude- Sandstorm.
Then you watch a game live, and the English prince becomes a pretender. Routinely, Arsenal find themselves behind and Wilshere, as is his want, plunges into a bungling slide as his side continue to be overrun in the centre. A certain section of the Arsenal faithful revere this testimony to Rambo-esque 'pashiun' and Wilshere's chest protrudes a little more. Meanwhile, his yellow card means for the rest of the game he must be cautious as Arsenal continue to get dominated in the middle and they invariably succumb to a 2-1 loss against Brighton.
The nightmare Wilshere endured against CSKA Moscow is not a fair indictment of the player, yet nor is his exceptional display against AC Milan last month. He is generally in-between games, floating about the lines and sporadically offering a 7/10 contribution but too often regressing to a 5/10. Trapped in some midfield purgatory that means it is quite possible he departs Arsenal at the end of the season as the club continue to maintain the current contract offer, a 20% reduction of his basic salary, is fair.
His recent offerings have also seen large swaths of the club's fans turn on him.
Told this way many times, Jack Wilshere has been getting worse and worse. Xhaka controlling the midfield is way better.
— Dammit Arsenal 🤦🏻♀️ (@DammitArsenal) April 12, 2018
Right now, Jack Wilshere is good at fighting and not much else.
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) April 8, 2018
Think any outside chance of Jack Wilshere making England World Cup squad disappeared last night.
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) April 13, 2018
Wilshere is a victim of his early promise. Mitigating circumstances, from injury to the club's trajectory, ensured he could never get a run of consistent, strong performances and instead invested all in once-off ones.
When faced with the prospect of an afternoon spent exerting significant effort tracking runners, clogging space, instigating turnovers and driving forward, the alternative of hacking down their number ten and passionately gesturing to one's team-mates to 'lift it' is infinitely more attractive. Particularly when you're likely to get praise for it. Despite their development of a football centre at St George's Park, the recent production of talented technical prospects and success of one of the best footballing sides the nation has witnessed, there is still a part of the British psyche that craves the furious collision. When it wasn't going Arsenal's way, Wilshere's concern seemed to be appearing as if he cared as opposed to trying to stem the tide.
A once-promising Arsenal career threatens to become a tale of over-promotion and miscalculation. For ten years Wilshere has been at the club and as is so often the case, it seems to have all passed him by.