Arsenal may have signed a new deal with BT but I am guessing that Jack Wilshere thinks it isn’t good to talk. It was a loaded question and there was only one answer that could not be misconstrued; Jack dutifully obliged in not giving it.
He should, we are told, “wind his neck in” or some other colourful phrase. We complain that footballers talk and say nothing but when they give an opinion, soundbite society bares its teeth. He gave an answer borne of barely two decades on the planet. He gave the contractually obliged answer, the one he had to give lest he be fined by the FA or FIFA for not participating in their media circus.
It was one that contained a shallowness which does not lend itself to the penetrating analysis which is being applied. One sentence, seized upon, dissected? 420 characters subsequently analysed. Was deriding a young man’s ill-communicated concept of what constitutes nationality on a football critical analysis or ego-soothing to remind the media of their existence? Some seized their moment to place accusations of casual racism and xenaphobia. I have no idea what reason they have for hating the Warrior Princess, it was never fully explained.
Wilshere is no stranger to media attention but recent coverage is likely to make him more reticent in his dealings with the press. I guess that Arsenal will probably refuse interviews for a while, to let the current tempests subside. No doubt that the future will find the media facing less tolerant chaperones across the board. It’s a shame that’s such trivial storms have deeper impacts. He simply needs to let his feet do the talking, his performances take the column inches and airwaves and not his opinions. For the moment, at least.
There is a disturbing trend towards criticising Wilshere, one where his performances are belittled by comparison to other, more experienced players. It became prevalent after the praise received for his performance in England’s win over Brazil earlier this year. Is it jealousy,petty-minded because Jack is a national treasure? That is the wrong way to look at it. If Jack is that highly regarded, it reflects well on the club, on the standards being achieved. Far from being detrimental, it should be a source of pride in achievement.
Wilshere is not an automatic first choice for Arsenal. There is a lot of competition for places in the midfield and it is up to him to find the consistency in his performances which make him undroppable. There is no sign that he does not relish the fight for his place or that he will not rise to the challenge. In many respects his career is following the same trajectory as Aaron Ramsey’s; a stuttering rehabilitation, two steps forward, one back and another sideways. It will come together for him, you can see that. It takes time, it’s that simple. It will work because he has the right attitude, you could see that last weekend. Coming into the game after fag-gate, his first half performance was below par. He responded with vast improvement in the second and a goal. Wilshere’s style of play means he will end kicked from pillar to post; his media dealings hint that he will have to roll with the punches in that arena as well. But at the end of it, I am confident he will realise his potential, enjoy a long Arsenal career.
Mesut Özil meanwhile had a genteel media day by comparison, almost supine. Pleased that Arsenal top the table, the German trod the path laid by Mikel Arteta in playing down that ‘achievement’. It is right as well, enjoying the moment but focussing on the work ahead. It is the sort of anodyne interview for the most part; great team, great teammates, going well that we expect from footballers. The pleasing aspect of it is his desire to immerse himself in the language and for the English players at the club who may have an inkling to go to, oh I don’t know, Spain to play, it is a lesson in how to integrate. He is of course fortunate that there are compatriots already settled at the club, who can help him acclimatise. That he is a half-decent player, able to mix skill and vision with those good old-fashioned English attributes of tackling and working hard, does no harm either…
And what was the right answer, the one Jack should have given? “If a player fulfils the criteria laid down by FIFA and the manager picks him, it isn’t a problem for me”.
Best not to have an opinion, Jack, someone will always tell you that you are not qualified to give it.