Is Jack Wilshere Being Weighed Down by Too Much Expectation?

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IISeptember 19, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Jack Wilshere (R) of Arsenal holds off the challenge of Selcuk Sahin of Fenerbahce during the UEFA Champions League Play Off Second leg match between Arsenal FC and Fenerbahce SK at Emirates Stadium on August 27, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

In one season, Jack Wilshere's reputation soared from that of a highly promising prospect to the golden child of English football.

Is it possible for such an explosion—which epitomizes the word "meteoric"—not to affect a player's mentality at all? What if the player is 19?

Alas, we were never afforded the opportunity to view Wilshere's true second act. After one of the most dramatic breakthrough seasons in recent memory, an ankle knock mushroomed into more than a full season spent in perpetual surgery and rehabilitation.

Indeed, this summer was Wilshere's first full preseason since 2010.

He finally returned from his calamitous ankle injury last season and was, at first, largely unburdened by the expectations of overeager fans. Rationality prevailed, and he was given a reasonable grace period to find fitness and form after such a long period away from the game.

Of course, Wilshere quickly displayed the all-around quality that had been obvious in his game for years. He returned in October, and by January, he was arguably the most essential member of the squad.

Much of this phoenix-like performance is due to the fact that Wilshere is simply an amazing midfielder whose talent is inherent and sometimes seems boundless. But the fact that there was very little pressure on his shoulders surely made resurrecting his young career exponentially easier.

But Wilshere is now well and truly back, and his recent presence in the team has inevitably brought out the old hype machine. He is touted as a future great for the English national team and Arsenal's linchpin now and in the future.

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It might be wise to take a couple steps back, breathe deeply, and more closely examine Jack Wilshere's curriculum vitae before deifying him.

The man is 21 years old. It may seem as if he has been an Arsenal regular for several seasons, but he only has one full season under his belt. He was also excluded from the squad for virtually all of Arsenal's final games last season because of a problem with the ankle that had not necessitated surgery the year before.

Wilshere's first and second ankle problems—both of which required an anesthetic and a scalpel—were largely the result of overwork. Arsene Wenger must handle him with extreme caution so that Wilshere's understandable desire to play every match does not impede his health.

It is quite easy to give into temptation, though. Wilshere is a unique midfielder who is equally effective in defense and attack, and whose combative nature often causes him to bear the brunt of multiple crunching challenges every game.

Try to remember the last time you saw Wilshere play a game when he was not crumpling under at least one other player at some point, writhing around in pain on the ground. Such perilous moments seem to occur multiple times during every match.

This obviously exposes Wilshere to myriad potential injuries. One would think that this rough style and his weekly sacrificing of his body will take a significant toll when he gets older.

Even if someone on the training ground has a word with him, it is difficult to fundamentally change one's style of play.

It is important to note that much of the hype surrounding Wilshere—especially after he initially burst onto the scene—was stirred because of his involvement with the English national team.

Perhaps the rapacious English media will never cease feasting on fans' passion about and frustration with their top footballers. Maybe the tabloids will be somewhat placated if the Three Lions actually win a tournament for once.

Regardless, it is simply unfair to brand a teenager or man in his early 20s a sort of national savior and heir to one of the greatest generations of midfielders that England has produced.

At Arsenal, at least, Mesut Ozil's arrival will likely serve as an escape valve for the pressure and expectation that continues to build around Wilshere.

No longer will the club's No. 10 have to bear so much of the creative burden. Much of the focus won't be on him anyway—that will pass to the man whose transfer fee almost tripled the club record and is one of the 10 best players on the planet.

Wilshere will be able to settle into the dynamic central role that probably suits him best.

While still able to utilize his creative instincts, he will be able to contribute to the midfield's tenacious new defensive focus, which has been so vital to the team's solidity.

Moreover, the simple addition of an extra body will allow Wilshere to play less. Fewer collisions and minutes for a body that takes a biweekly pounding will establish a platform for his short-term effectiveness and long-term success at the club.

Let's just remember that Wilshere is a 21-year-old who is quite some way away from being the finished article.

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