Jack Wilshere Faces a Tough Season to Even Get in the Arsenal Team

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2014

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere takes a shot at goal during their English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

It must be a slightly curious time to be Jack Wilshere at the moment.

In a slightly unusual situation for him, he appears to be fit and healthy going into a new season, the niggling injuries that have hampered him in the past seemingly behind him.

However, while he is available, he has little guarantee of a first-team spot at Arsenal, particularly given the additions made over the summer.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Wilshere started Sunday's Community Shield win over Manchester City in the No. 10 role, playing in front of Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, with Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla either side of him. And he played well, passing and probing effectively, albeit against a City side who looked as if they were, shall we say, conserving their energy for bigger challenges ahead.

However, when the season starts it's difficult to see him cementing a permanent role there, given the alternatives that Wenger has at his disposal. Mesut Ozil has only just reported for duty after the World Cup, Tomas Rosicky often makes Arsenal tick by playing in that advanced role, Santi Cazorla can play there while it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sanchez in that position occasionally.

It would therefore seem logical that a deeper midfield role is more likely for the England man, but there are problems with that theory, too. Ramsey, again superb against City, is an automatic choice, and while Wilshere could easily replace Mikel Arteta as a deep-lying playmaker who controls possession and starts attacks, Arsenal have been too lightweight in central midfield for years.

There has been talk that Wenger will finally address that deficiency this summer, so if he does purchase someone like William Carvalho, as suggested by Simon Jones in the Daily Mail, where does that leave Wilshere?

The good news for the midfielder is that Wenger would clearly like to find a permanent role for him in the side. The Arsenal manager said before the Community Shield, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph:

At the top-level you need to be consistent with your presence. You can play six, seven, eight games and rest one or two but you have to play six, seven on the trot. I think he will be capable of doing it. He prepares well. He has no ankle problem any more. It could be his year.

This isn't how it was to pan out for Wilshere. When he broke into the Arsenal first team—before that, even—he was supposed to be the great talent of English football, the closest this country had to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta when Spain were the team most seemed to want to emulate. He was meant to be a player around which teams were built, but instead he has become one that has to earn a place, to carve out a niche for himself in the Arsenal side, to fit in.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Wilshere's problem, as Wenger identifies, is consistency, both in fitness and performance. Of course, the former may impact on the latter, but if he is to even get a regular starting place, never mind have the sort of career many predicted he would, he needs to rectify this quickly.

Wilshere must prove to Wenger that he is better than the myriad expensive talents that have arrived at Arsenal since his emergence, and that will not be an easy task.