The exasperating transfer window has finally drawn to a close and suffice to say Arsene Wenger has done some pretty solid and interesting business. Whilst the signings of Perez and Mustafi will undoubtedly be analysed and scrutinised by pundits over the coming months, it is the release of Jack Wilshere on loan that excites and intrigues me the most. For years now, Jack has been on the cusp of something special. Expectations have grown great and yet his transformation from orphan Pip to the gentleman he was expected to become have failed to materialise. His career trajectory has stalled and with Arsenal lacking the necessary space in their first eleven, a move to another club was necessary to jump start his career.
It was unsurprising that there were a number of European clubs who enquired about the England international’s availability. However, it was less foreseeable that the quality of Premier League clubs who came in for Wilshere would fall beneath the standard of the mid-table variety. For a number of years Jack has fallen short of his expected trajectory; once the 18 year old to overshadow both Xavi and Iniesta at the Camp Nou, Jack has failed to replicate his performance. For the decision to be between a faltering Roma, a Pardew-led Palace and the apple of the FA’s eye Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, Arsenal fans will be glad that the midfielder is heading to the south coast. Firstly, from a predominantly selfish point of view, I am pleased Wilshere decided to stay in the Premier League. He is an exciting player to watch. His ability to run with the ball, a genuine ability to dribble and draw players in, is a trait unbeknownst to much of the Premier League. Similar attributes may be accredited to the affable Santi Cazorla and the resurgent Eden Hazard – and admittedly, both of them are a level above the England international, but few others. Furthermore, his previous two international goals demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility, made all the more exhilarating by being scored with the much beloved cultured left foot (that inexplicable fans’ favouritism for 20% of professional footballers). Simply, this is a player that excites.
Secondly, I think most England fans and Arsenal fans will agree that they would much rather see Jack being coached by Eddie Howe than the impish (I’m choosing my words very carefully) Alan Pardew. Whilst I may enjoy the stories that emerge about ‘Pardiola’ and the pictures of him surrounded by beautiful ladies in seedy nightclubs in the small hours of the morning, I think it best that Jack distances himself from such influences. There is no doubt that Pardew is a more than competent Premier League manager but he has rarely been accused of nurturing talent. Sure he can construct a decent set piece but cultivating one of the country’s greatest prospects in the last decade is not amongst his personal accolades. Additionally, Pardew seems to have a very outmoded game plan based around a strong target man and two quick wingers. Whilst Wilshere may have benefitted from playing one-twos with the colossal Benteke, the game plan would surely consist of ‘Get it wide and whip it in to Bentekkers!’ (I imagine this is the nickname that Pardew would come up with). Additionally, with Wilshere seeing himself as a deep lying playmaker (despite Wenger’s proclivity for playing him in the number 10 role), the England international would have to oust a certain Mr Cabaye from the role – which is no easy task for a player who has played very little football in the last year.
With both the style of play and the location being two of the key factors, it seems quite logical that Wilshere should attempt to resurrect his faltering career on the south coast under the stewardship of Eddie Howe. Howe transformed the club from top to toe, not dissimilar to Wenger, and implemented a style of play that is both pleasing on the eye and somewhat effective given the limited personnel at his disposal. A midfield assortment of Andrew Surman, Nathan Ake, Harry Arter and Lewis Cook provides plenty of graft and tenacity but very little in the way of tangible talent on the ball. It would seem counterproductive for Wilshere to go to a club where he is rotation with players. A starting berth whilst not guaranteed, is more than likely at Bournemouth as Eddie Howe looks to add a touch of flair to his midfield of spirited grafters. Additionally, it should not be discounted that Eddie Howe is being considered in the FA’s succession plan to the ‘results over style’ Allardyce. If rumours are to be believed, Howe was offered the assistant manager role alongside Big Sam which surely points to a loose succession plan to Allardyce’s England career. It may have been brought to the attention of Wilshere that working with Howe may lead to bettering his chances of playing and possibly fulcruming the England team in the future. Any subsequent success from this loan will colour our opinion of both Wilshere and Eddie Howe in a very favourable way.
Criticisms have emerged regarding the length of Wilshere’s loan, particularly from ex-Arsenal striker Paul Merson. But what benefit is it to Wilshere to spend half a season at a club when it could potentially take him a few weeks to break into the team, a further few weeks to understand the club’s style of play, not to mention the young England man needing time to find his best form? The goal posts have been firmly set for Wilshere – establish yourself in a team that is aiming for a mid-table finish and a strong cup run. Arsenal have the personnel to deal with an injury or two to their midfield, the purpose of this loan is to allow Wilshere to re-establish himself, find his confidence and to play a full season of football injury free. To move the goalposts halfway through the season would cause unnecessary disruption; and if Wilshere can help Bournemouth take points from any of Arsenal’s closest rivals then all the better.
Wilshere was once described as the next ‘Liam Brady’. Xavi, of Barcelona fame, previously said Jack ‘doesn’t play the English way’ – which I can only surmise was meant as a compliment. The man who has worked with Wilshere the most, Arsene Wenger – key nurturer of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Cesc Fabregas amongst others, has never doubted the talent the young man has. But perhaps it is time to allow his young protégé to fly the nest for a while. A migration south may see Wilshere achieve his potential.
Til next time,