Former Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson believes the time might have come for Jack Wilshere to leave the club, suggesting that a fresh start could see him revitalise his still-promising career.
After bursting onto the scene with both Arsenal and the England national team in 2010, aged 18, Wilshere has endured on-going fitness problems over the past three seasons, including a stress fracture in his ankle which saw miss the entire 2011-12 campaign.
Questions about his behaviour on and off the pitch were further raised this summer, when the 22-year-old was pictured smoking again while on holiday after the World Cup, having been restricted to a bit-part role during the side’s disappointing tournament.
His place in Arsene Wenger’s first-choice starting XI far from guaranteed going into the new season, Wilshere has nevertheless appeared in all three games thus far, but Robson wonders whether he’ll ever be able to realise his undoubted potential while with the Gunners.
‘A couple of years ago I said that Jack Wilshere was probably the best talent England has produced since Paul Gascoigne,’ he told ESPN.
‘Unfortunately, injuries and a lack of discipline at times means he’s not playing anywhere near as well and he’s under pressure for his place in the team.
‘He hasn’t impressed in the first few games, but he’s still an outstanding player and if I was some other manager at a top club, like [Manuel] Pellegrini, [Jose] Mourinho, Luis Enrique or [Carlo] Ancelotti, then he’s somebody I’d be looking to buy.
‘I don’t think he’s settled at Arsenal or been disciplined there, and they’ve allowed him to get away with all sorts of things.
‘Again, he’s an outstanding player – he can run with the ball, pass it, defend when he needs to – but he needs to be taught the game tactically. Those other managers I think will do that.
‘Arsenal have brought in some big players – Aaron Ramsey’s a better player, Mesut Ozil’s a better player, and now Alexis Sanchez has come into the club – so unless Jack Wilshere plays at his best then he’s not going to get into the team.
‘That’s a complete waste for England and Arsenal, and it may be the time for him to go elsewhere.’
Despite a somewhat tenuous report linking Wilshere with a move to Juventus earlier this month, one would think that Wenger’s track record of developing his own talent makes him just as qualified as the likes of Mourinho or Ancelotti to get the best out of the 20-times capped international.
Facing a crucial season at the Emirates, the Frenchman has told him this week to ignore the criticism and focus on his own development and fitness but, even with that advice, it remains to be seen whether he will ever reach the heights he was expected to as a teenager.