Public Enemy said 'Don't believe the hype'. Jack Wilshere was hyped as a 16-year-old by the prophetic judge of talent, Arsene Wenger, and after 17 months out with an ankle injury, the Englishman has returned bigger and better than ever.
After a man of the match performance in England’s 2-1 win over Brazil last week, Wilshere came to the fore for Arsenal as they won by a solitary goal away to Sunderland. He had to limp off after 50 minutes, and his importance to the Gunners was shown in Wenger’s words after the final whistle.
"Taylor let two or three things go that I thought were fouls on Jack," he said to the BBC.
"I was a bit frustrated because I thought many times he didn't get the free-kick he deserved."
Wenger knows he needs to protect his main player from picking up more injuries, whilst he voiced his concerns over burnout for Wilshere. But because he is so important to both club and country, opportunities for rest are likely to be few and far between.
Anyone who was at Wembley last Wednesday will have noted Wilshere’s ability on the ball, whether driving past opponents or threading through balls through the Brazilian defence, but also his movement off the ball.
England have struggled to break down obstinate opponents in Wilshere’s absence with a lack of options for the man in possession a major problem. His energy and movement rubs off on his teammates and he is a key link between the midfield and attack. Is it a coincidence Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott had their best games in an England shirt for a long time?
What is even more remarkable about Wilshere is that he has only played 53 Premier League games for Arsenal since making his debut in 2008. Add in seven international appearances for England, and it is amazing that someone so young and lacking the experience of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Mikel Arteta or even perennial injury-victim Abou Diaby can be the star player for both his teams.
The fear now is that the expectation becomes too great, the pressure from the media and supporters becomes overbearing, and Wilshere suffers for it. To give the player his due, Wilshere seems to have a mature head on his shoulders, maybe as a result of making his debut so young, and a new generation of English talent including Tom Cleverley, Daniel Sturridge, Phil Jones and Raheem Sterling should lessen the burden when playing for the Three Lions.
The worries may come at club level, especially if Arsenal miss out on the Champions League. Wilshere has seen Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, and most recently Robin van Persie leave the Emirates, and while his loyalty to Arsenal and Wenger is unquestioned, if Arsenal start missing out on Europe’s premier club competition, debate will swirl around north London over what is best for Wilshere and England.
His performance against Brazil showed he could play for the best clubs in the world, even fit in with the exalted style of Barcelona. He'd recognise a couple of faces in Fabregas and Alex Song.
But that's in the future, for now Wilshere needs to shake off the knock he picked up against Sunderland and continue his fine form for club and country. He could do with the public relaxing the pressure on his shoulders but, let's be honest, that is not going to happen.
If England are to qualify for Brazil, never mind have success in the World Cup next year, Wilshere will be the one we all rely on.
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