By its very nature every transfer window will produce winners and losers – that is part of the reason for all the cod drama on television – but some dramas happen to be real and this summer seems to be specialising in personal tales of woe.
Until recently Joe Hart was the main object of sympathy, having to put a brave face on the fact his face no longer fits at Manchester City, before Arsenal brought a collective gasp from English football by revealing they would be willing to let Jack Wilshere go out on loan.
Wilshere was supposed to be the future. Fabio Capello said so, back when he was in charge of England and when Wilshere was still emerging as a delightfully mature youngster. Unfortunately the midfielder has rarely been fit enough to live up to that promise, a series of frustrating injuries interrupting a career that now seems to be back where it started.
When Wilshere went out on loan to Bolton Wanderers in 2010 he did not quite make his name – most Arsenal fans realised the club had an exciting young talent on its hands – but he announced himself to the wider world beyond London. He played only 14 games, though gained vital Premier League experience including his first goal in the top flight in a win at West Ham United, and Bolton were so impressed they tried to bring him back for the following season.
Arsenal were having none of that, and on his return to the Emirates Wilshere appeared in the club’s opening games and made his England debut at the age of 18. He was already Arsenal’s youngest debutant, having beaten a record set by Cesc Fàbregas, and had even appeared in the Champions League as a 16-year-old. A glittering future seemed assured when Wilshere went on to make 49 appearances for Arsenal in the 2010-11 season, yet he was unlucky enough to miss the whole of the following campaign with what originally seemed a relatively minor stress fracture to an ankle in a pre-season friendly.
It would not be far from the truth to state that Wilshere has been unlucky ever since. He was unable to play a part for England in Euro 2012, and though he reappeared for Arsenal with some outstanding performances after a 17-month layoff, he was injured again right at the end of the 2012-13 season and on his return was used only sparingly as he needed surgery to remove a pin from a leg. The following season went well until a hairline fracture of a foot saw him miss important games at the end, and though he made the England squad for the World Cup in Brazil he started only the final game against Costa Rica, a meaningless game with Roy Hodgson’s side already eliminated. A pattern was being established, and Wilshere became an increasingly peripheral figure through surgery on left ankle ligaments in 2014-15 and a fractured fibula in pre-season training for 2015-16.
That last injury was the one that made his inclusion for Euro 2016 a matter of widespread debate. He made the trip and played three times in France but was never seen as a certain starter. At 24 it appeared Wilshere still had plenty of time on his side but alarm bells must have started to ring when Arsenal paid £35m for the Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka. Then after failing to start any of Arsenal’s opening games Wilshere was omitted from Sam Allardyce’s first England squad, the manager explaining quite reasonably the midfielder needed more games for his club to be considered for selection, a blow quickly followed by the tacit admission he was unlikely to get them at Arsenal with the revelation he could be loaned out.
In terms of individuals, there can be no doubt who has been the summer’s biggest loser. City’s Hart is 30 next birthday after all, he has already had a successful career, and though finding himself playing in Italy on loan to Torino may have been an unexpected departure along the way, at least he is still playing and still capable of showing Pep Guardiola may have made a mistake. Virtually every footballer is at risk to a certain extent when a club changes manager.
Arsenal, however, have not changed manager. Arsène Wenger is by a distance the longest-serving manager in the Premier League and a byword for stability and consistency. He still has his vision for the future but as things stand Wilshere is no longer part of it. While there is plenty of support and understanding for the player within the club, patience appears to have run out. Wilshere has simply missed too many games and though everyone in football will wish him well once he finds a new club all parties in the transaction must be painfully aware there are no guarantees. As ever in football, even for its most gifted entertainers, the future is not easy to predict.
News Source TheGuardianNews