Jack Wilshere is ready for England now Fabio, says former Arsenal star
Ex-Gunners midfielder Stewart Robson has monitored the Arsenal starlet’s career closely, and believes the 18-year-old is now ready to take centre stage, but only if he calms his temper
The season began with one English starlet in red and white emerging as the nation’s saviour, now we’re barely in October and another is being talked up as the next best thing.
So much for Arsenal’s foreign legion.
Poor Theo Walcott may be recovering from his latest tweak, pull or strain, but Jack Wilshere’s exceptional natural talents are now being talked up by friend and foe.
His performance, particularly in the second half, in Sunday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge was one of the few positives from an otherwise disappointing day out in west London for Arsenal.
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In a contest involving Michael Essien, Alex Song, Abou Diaby and John Obi Mikel, the 18-year-old was the best midfielder on show. Some would argue he was the best player. Full stop.
Phil Thompson has described him as the “English Iniesta or Xavi” while former Arsenal striker Paul Merson mentioned him in the same breath as Highbury legend Liam Brady.
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Now all eyes are on England’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro next Tuesday. Will Wilshere play?
“I’d put him in straight away,” former Arsenal and England Under-21 midfielder Stewart Robson tells Ham&High Sport, “he is absolutely ready.”
And he should know.
One of the country’s most eloquent and informed pundits – take note moribund Match of the Day – Robson has watched the teenager’s development like no other outside of London Colney or the Wilshere household.
A regular role on Arsenal’s online TV station has meant he has followed the Hitchin-born midfielder’s progress particularly closely.
“I’ve been impressed with Jack from day one,” explains Robson, himself a midfield prodigy who made 150 appearances for the Gunners before leaving for West ham United in 1986.
“I’ve watched him with interest for a couple of years now, in the youth teams, the reserves and now the first team.
“He has a great, great football brain, he really does. It’s excellent. In addition, his technique is very good.
“His vision and passing range is excellent and although he is not the quickest player in the world, he is still very fast over those key six or seven yards – he can beat players very easily.
“But I also love the fact that he is not scared to put his foot in. He’s not frightened at all.”
Thus the ‘New Gazza’ tag.
“Well, they are two very different players so it is difficult to compare,” smiles Robson, “But Jack has everything so he has it in him to be an England regular for years to come.
“He can be the best midfielder at Arsenal – with the exception of his skipper, Cesc Fabregas, who, let’s not forget, is also a young player still developing.”
Arsene Wenger’s decision to send Wilshere out on loan to Bolton last season appears to be paying rich dividends.
The clamour for his inclusion into the senior England set-up first started in August 2009, when he scored twice in a 3-0 Emirates Cup win over Glasgow Rangers in front of the watching Fabio Capello.
Maybe it spooked Wenger, who said at the time: ‘At 16 years of age I gave him the chance to practise every day with first-team players. He has benefited a lot from special treatment, an acceleration of his education.
“But there’s a problem in England. Knowing the impatience of English people, it will be difficult to keep the right pace of his progress. Let’s see how he progresses.”
Wilshere then went north to the Reebok to further his footballing education.
Now back home, and despite an obligatory nightclub ‘incident’ last month, he is a man in demand both at club level and on the international scene.
One Arsenal blog this week excellently described Wilshere as “so good, they called him up twice” in recognition of the fact he made both Stuart Pearce’s Under 21 squad and Capello’s seniors.
But while Pearce’s side take on Romania at Norwich’s Carrow Road in a Euro 2011 Under-21s qualifier tomorrow [Friday] evening Wilshere now, surely, has bigger fish to fry, starting at Wembley on Tuesday.
His World Cup-winning mentor, Fabregas, believes so
The Spaniard said this week: “I remember Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry saying I looked 27 when I was 18.
“I didn’t really know what they were talking about. But now that I am a bit older and I see Jack aged 18, I understand. He plays the same way.
“He’s an exceptional talent; he’s the future of England. And he will bring them glory in a few years, for sure.”
But… before the bumper sponsorship deals, 300 per cent pay rise and Hello! Magazine wedding, back to Robson for a word of caution.
“I have one big concern over the lad,” he warns.
“He needs to keep his cool, he needs to be more cautious, he needs to work on his temperament.
“Jack likes to argue with the opposition and, worryingly, he likes to argue with the officials - I saw it on Sunday and I’m afraid that kind of thing normally only gets worse.
“If he is doing that at 18, when most players are a little more timid and respectful, who knows what he will be like at 25?
“I am sure they are, but I just hope his coaches at London Colney are watching it closely and having a word in his ear.”