Jack Wilshere's Red Card Born of Bitter Frustration at Wenger and Arsenal
Jack Wilshere's red card against Manchester United was born of frustration. The frustration of his mind being willing but his body being unable after 17 months out injured. The frustration of his team being so completely outplayed by their bitter rivals. But mostly, his red card was born of the frustration of being part of a club in decline.
There is little doubt now that one of the most successful clubs in English football history, with 13 league titles and 10 FA Cups, is in a period of deterioration.
That decline has coincided with the breaking up of one of the greatest teams to ever grace a pitch in England: The Invincibles.
In the 2003-04 season, the Gunners went completely unbeaten over the 38 games and finished on top of the Premier League with a staggering 90 points, 11 points ahead of second-placed Chelsea, 15 points ahead of Manchester United in third and a staggering 30 points ahead of Liverpool in fourth.
To say that the Gunners dominated the league would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. Arsenal, quite simply, played some of the best football ever seen and swept every opponent aside as they roared to the title.
They won the league playing the best football, they won the league with the best manager and they won the league with the best players.
It was the beginning of a dynasty that had been in the making since the very first moment Arsene Wenger walked through the hallowed marble halls at Highbury on September 30, 1996.
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The Invincibles season was the culmination of incredible hard work, an unbelievable scouting system and inspired coaching.
Everything was perfect. The foundations had been set over the previous eight years and now Arsenal were going to dominate football in England like never before.
The following season their title was surrendered as Chelsea won their first Premier League title, with Arsenal finishing second some 12 points behind on 83.
They did make it to the FA Cup final, though, and won. But it was a facile victory as Manchester United completely outplayed them over the course of 120 minutes before penalties separated the teams.
And from there, the great foundations set the year before dwindled before Arsenal fans' very eyes.
All declines are slow, painful, drawn-out procedures that happen over years. It seems to slip through your fingers like grains of sand and before you know it, your great team are also-rans.
After the year of the Invincibles, the trickle of players leaving the club began.
Martin Keown, a bit-part player at this stage of his career but huge influence in the dressing room, was the first to leave on July 20, 2004. Ray Parlour, a similar type character and fellow Arsenal legend, followed him out the door three days later.
They were the first pebbles in the avalanche of top players that would leave the club over the next eight years.
Robert Pires and captain Patrick Vieira left the following season, as Arsene Wenger changed the shape and formation of the team.
The next season, 2006-07, saw their talisman Thierry Henry leave alongside Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell.
Freddie Ljungberg, Lassana Diarra, Jose Reyes and Jens Lehmann then left in 2007-08.
Mathieu Flamini, Gilberto Silva and Aleksandr Hleb left the next season; Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure after that. Ex-captain William Gallas then left at the start of the 2010-11 season.
In 2011-12, the worst season of all for Arsenal fans, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue and Samir Nasri were all allowed to leave.
This season has now seen the departure of Alex Song to Barcelona and, most significantly, Robin van Persie to Manchester United.
Having lost so many characters, important leaders and important players in such a short period it is surprising that Arsenal are still a top-four team at all.
But it is no wonder that they are now mere competitors in the Premier League and the Champions League rather than the contenders they could and should be.
Jack Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy aged nine in 2001.
During the most important and influential period of his footballing childhood, he was playing for the same team as the Invincibles and grew up thinking he would be part of that fabulous team one day.
Now in 2012, Jack Wilshere is a 20-year-old boy.
He is part of an Arsenal team going nowhere fast, and he is their best player.
Wilshere bears the weight on his young shoulders like a colossus. He carries the burden of Arsene Wenger's and the club's sins and it is not surprising he is frustrated.
Having being out injured since June 4, 2011, Wilshere was parachuted into an Arsenal team devoid of confidence for the visit of struggling Queens Park Rangers.
During his 67 minutes on the pitch, he acquitted himself well against one the worst teams in the league.
Adrenaline, enthusiasm and the fact that Rangers are pretty poor were enough to see him make a successful comeback during the Gunners' lucky 1-0 win.
In this aspect Arsene Wenger's experiment failed.
Wilshere's appearance in the famed red and white jersey, after being out for so long, did little to boost the confidence of the team.
So it was amazing to see the prodigious youth named in the starting XI to face Manchester United the following week.
More so when you consider that last season, without Wilshere in the side, the Gunners were absolutely mauled by their opponents in an 8-2 defeat that still causes nightmares for some fans.
But, needing to give his side a boost, yet again, when he seems unable to do so, Wenger made a cardinal error and literally sacrificed Wilshere to Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils.
While the eventual score line may have been 2-1, the difference between the two sides was equally as great as the 8-2 score line the year before.
Wilshere, like many of his teammates, was little more than a bystander, and as United's midfield played their way past him, around him and through him, his frustrations began to grow.
He was furious with how his body could not react in the way his mind wanted.
He was furious at his own team's complete submission to their opponents.
And he would have been furious with his manager for two reasons.
The first reason is obvious. There is no way on earth Wilshere was ready to face a team like Manchester United. QPR are a different matter completely; United are built to destroy reputations and to take advantage of any weakness their opponents may show. In this it is the 20-year-old's complete lack of match fitness both mentally and physically.
The second point that would have made Wilshere furious with his manager is the complete lack of cohesion in the Arsenal team, the complete lack of physical battle and, most importantly, the complete lack of characters.
They have all been sold over the last few years and now that transfer policy is coming home to roost.
Arsenal, as a club, have systematically dismantled one of the greatest sides we have ever seen to keep their profit margins up.
But, most importantly, they have robbed Arsenal fans, and the many neutrals who love the way they play, of the teams that could have been.
Jack Wilshere never got the chance to learn from Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires or Thierry Henry amongst others.
Jack Wilshere will never get to line up beside Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Song.
There is one jewel left in the Arsenal crown. It is Jack Wilshere. If he is sold, the stripping of Arsenal's assets will be complete.
The sins of the father are being visited upon the children.
And it is little wonder that they are frustrated.
You can follow me on Twitter @WillieGannon
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