That Old Jack Magic

December 13, 2012 6 Comments by Sian

I started writing the following on Jack Wilshere for Soccer Without Limits ahead of Tuesday’s monstrosity. Fortunately all of it still stands, though some of it needed minor tweaks. Normal blog back soon but for now stay strong, where there’s life there hope and as long as our participation in three competitions is still a fact, there is very much life in the old dog yet. Also I’ve no idea why one paragraph shows up differently to the rest and if anyone could explain it I’d be much obliged.

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IN an email following the Gunners’ match against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Arsene Wenger told me:

“Jack Wilshere played very well and you can see that he is getting closer to the player we know he is. He took a big step forward against West Brom and we sensed it in training ahead of the game.”

Well, he told me and anyone else subscribed to his email updates, but let’s not get bogged down here. Though Santi Cazorla and his dying swan act may have dominated the headlines following the 2-0 home win at the weekend, Wilshere’s performance was also rightly singled out as a breath of fresh, skillful air on a day that rounded off a poisonous week of two losses and two draws for the Arsenal.
Since I started this article, they’ve headed out of the Capital One Cup following defeat to Bradford City, away on penalties. I don’t think anyone really knew what poisonous was before this happened, but thankfully Wilshere was still a diamond in the rough in this match too, so this article can go ahead. He also, along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, scored our only two penalties in the shoot-out, with Cazorla, Marouane Chamakh and Thomas Vermaelen having theirs saved either by the keeper or by the post.

The 20-year-old is the current darling of the people on the North London terraces, and has been ever since he came bounding into the first team two seasons ago. (I mean we don’t really have anyone else to cling to, do we? I kid, I kid) After 14 months out injured in the intervening period, he ran the risk of being bigged up to some other worldly level. It’s certainly true in football that injury makes the heart grow fonder. Thomas Vermaelen’s defensive capabilities became almost something of an old Greek legend in the season he was out. This may have been partly due to the fact that Arsenal didn’t really have any defence to speak of in that time away, but irrespective of this, it was always unlikely he’d be able to live up to the great expectations fans had created in their heads in the long, long season they were without their marauding Belgian. This season he’s starting to show flashes of the old Thomas we grew to love before his plantaris tendons ruined him, sidelining him for a year, but it’s taken a generous readjustment period. This short-term (‘short-term’, hilarious, fermentingly long-term I do of course mean) memory loss also plagues the ghost of Abou Diaby. We will win all of the trophies as soon as the leggy Frenchman strings more than four games together, of this I’ve no doubt.

But the thing is, Jack is somewhat other worldly anyway. If you could mix together in a happy pot of football all the traits one could wish for in a player capable of making your heart sing, he is probably it.

“He has a Spanish technique certainly,” Wenger has said. But “He has an English heart because he’s an English boy.” I can think of no one more English than Jack Wilshere. In fact he’s so English that he’s very often mistaken for the English county of Wiltshire. But honestly, when we think of English footballers, we don’t think of a player that plays like the shoulder-droppin’, tongue-pokin’ Jack Wilshere, do we? No. I personally think of a lummoxy, hoofing centre half.
Wilshere loves the ball. Like, really loves the ball. Footballers always say they love the ball, in spite of being ball hoofers. Jack, on the other hand, loves the ball so much he’d probably cuddle it into the net if he could.

At 5ft 7 he may be somewhat vertically challenged, but it’s hardly been a hindrance for him. His first goal for the first team was scored with his head, against Aston Villa in a penalty box of tall people in November 2010. Having become a target for most footballers in most football matches, his low centre of gravity means his recoveries to his feet resemble those of Bandura’s Bobo dolls.

At the moment, possibly my favourite thing about him is that in spite of all his talent and in spite of the huge enjoyment he brings football fans, he’s quite roundly hated by all that are not Arsenal. I say ‘at the moment’ because I’m one of the few Arsenal fans who do not believe he will stay with us forever. But I miss people not liking Arsenal players. I long for the day we are hated by other teams once more. It’s such fun. But they hate Jack because he’s brilliant, and they hate him because he’s got a mouth on him (rather like his Spanish predecessor). One of the more humorous moments in the West Brom game saw him squaring up to 6ft 4in Jonas Olsson. He once told Gary Neville he was ugly. He got sent off in his second start back from injury, and against Manchester United at that. I like the fact he creates all this beautiful football, yet still looks like he basically just longs to thump someone.

At a time in which Arsenal are haemorraghing players in the same way other clubs are haemorraghing money, Wilshere’s love of the club means he’ll stick around for a while. With us since he was nine years old, he’s come through the ranks and was part of our very successful youth team of a couple of years ago. But while he may love Arsenal, he also loves winning and he really, really hates losing. In tears after the Carling Cup final in 2011 and one of the few who looked bothered after Tuesday’s cup exit, I don’t hold out much hope he’ll hang around too long if Arsenal doesn’t begin to sort itself out.

Back in his tweeting days, he was asked whether he’d prefer to win the World Cup or the Champions League. He, scandalously, chose the former, but if we want to hold on to the boy brilliant enough to have inherited the Holiest of matchday songs – the Bergkamp Wonderland song – we’re going to have to start doing an awful lot more of the winning and an awful lot less of the losing.

After it’s not like he’ll ever win a World Cup. He may well be fantastic, but unfortunately for him he’ll always be English – no matter how much his legs might tell him otherwise.

SWOL | Soccer Without Limits


  1. Treez
    1773 days ago

    Been looking forward to another post – for only you can make the dark days we are going through seem a little brighter.
    Great piece – I just hope you’re wrong about Jack not sticking around.


  2. Irishgray
    1773 days ago

    Sian – Welcome back, that put a smile on my face :) Like Treez said, these are some dark days. The Arsenal is not a team to be supported by the faint of heart, now is it? A real pity we could not beat Bradford as that would have given both the players and the fan the boost we need coming into a hectic and very important part of the season.

    Any thoughts Sian, on whether or not AW’s habit of asking players to play out of position is doing more harm than good? I mean against Bradford, we played Gervinho as a striker ahead of Chamakh, Ramsey on the right wing instead of Gervinho and kept Rosicky on the bench and played Coquelin.

    From a frustrated but still hopeful gooner.


  3. Shropshire Lad
    1769 days ago

    Well played Sian
    An interesting slant on things and fun to read.
    Jack will Captain Arsenal and do a Tony, Tony Adams.
    It’s in his blood which is different to al the great but still ‘Johnny Foreigners’ we have had in the role. Thierry came closest but his necessary self obsession (in order to be that good) undermined his abilities to be a good leader. Jack will lead and as he gets older many will follow.


  4. Irishgray
    1769 days ago

    5-2 :) I could get well used to playing Reading on a more regular basis, pity we could not seem to keep a clean sheet but 3 points is 3 points. Roll on Wigan!!


  5. Alex
    1768 days ago

    Great post Sian, very weird gray paragraph but c’mon, it wasn’t going to deter me from reading the whole thing :P

    And yesterday’s game, the 3rd 5-2 scoreline in our favour of 2012, like the old Arsenal again, a delight to see :D Even Sign Da Ting/FEEEEOOOO wasn’t too shabby upfront, when Jack said that he hopes Theo signs on for us I wanted him to whip out the contract with pen attached right there and then and sign in their Post Match Interview yesterday so Jack wouldn’t be sad anymore, we’re truly lucky to have the future of English Football at our club :)


  6. Harish Kumar
    1767 days ago

    Good article from you Sian,

    Keeping the faith and being optimistic is the trademark for being a gunner, and this article adds to the fact that, you are being optimistic even on our Diaby.. Good.

    But i want to be even more optimistic with Jack Wilshere, he has raised himself a gunner, like us, and would never leave ARSENAL for sure.

    Regarding Winning trophies, hopefully wenger doesn’t buy players like gervinho, chamakh, squillaci, park and bet on some REAL players for god’s sake..

    Hope to hear from you with another thought [article] soon, with our winter transfers..

    Good luck. :)


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