Wilshere must find a new maturity if he is to earn the armband.
Jack Wilshere has revealed his desire to captain Arsenal but his childish response to abuse from Manchester City supporters last weekend suggested the midfielder still has some growing up to do before he receives the arm-band.
Wilshere has been handed a two-match ban for his ‘middle finger’ gesture after his side’s 6-3 Premier League defeat at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon.
It was a costly error of judgement by Wilshere, who will now miss Arsenal’s crucial home match against Chelsea on Monday, and the following trip to West Ham United.
It would be easy to be overly critical, after what was a momentary loss of composure following a difficult afternoon for Wilshere, who had to endure some personal abuse from the ManchesterCity fans. Many other players may have reacted in a similar manner.
But it did highlight the fact that Wilshere is still affected by an immature streak which is typical of many young players. And it is that side of his game which he must control if Arsene Wenger is to hand him the captain’s arm-band. Football Association chairman Greg Dyke put it succinctly by stating that Wilshere has ‘got to learn to cope with it’.
Ability with the ball is not enough, captains lead by example.
Wilshere’s influence on this emerging Arsenal side increases with every passing season. He has now been at the club for five years and is one of their longest-serving players. He has 14 senior England caps, and there are surely many more to come for the boy from Stevenage.
But still there are isolated incidents which puncture his otherwise impressive progress – being pictured outside a nightclub holding a cigarette in October was not his proudest moment, and unsurprisingly drew scathing criticism from his manager.
If Wilshere really does want to fulfil his dream of captaining Arsenal, he must eradicate these moments of ill-judgement. Team-mates such as Mikel Arteta, a fine professional on and off the pitch, are the examples Wilshere must follow. Aaron Ramsey is only a year older than Wilshere but rarely generates a negative headline.
Wilshere has age on his side, and incidents such as at ManchesterCity certainly do not cast a permanent stain on his character. He has picked up just four bookings in 29 games this season, hardly the record of a player who struggles to compose himself.
But it is unlikely that Wenger will grant him his captaincy wish until he can prove his ability to keep his composure on the occasions that really matter.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald