I’ve previously gushed about Wilshere’s quality and symbolic value, so I’ll try to restrain myself rather than shrieking like an 11-year old at the site of Justin Bieber (sorry; just threw up a little in my mouth. And we’re back). With each game, Wilshere’s value and skill seem to grow, and he has said that he wants to play every single game, but for as much as I respect the man and for as many goosebumps as he gives me, I’d prefer to see him rest from time to time. He has the spirit and mindset, if not the experience, to drive the team forward moreso than any of the men who’ve worn the armband over the last few years.
We all know that the captain’s armband has been a bit of a curse over the years, with previous wearers Fabregas and Van Persie leaving. More recently, some have speculated that Vermaelen’s relatively poor form is to be attributed to wearing the armband. I don’t know if it’s that heavy—does it drag on his arm, causing him to list to one side? More than form, of greater import to me is the personality of the person who wears it. Simply put, Vermaelen doesn’t carry the aura of a man who will lead a team. He doesn’t intimidate; he doesn’t swagger; he doesn’t command. These are not criticisms, as much as they just sounded like it. I’ll say the same of Arteta. These are both players whom I do truly like—I just don’t see them as captain-material. They’re quiet and unassuming, for the most part. We need a captain who can take a game by the scruff of the neck and drag it home, a captain who will get in the face of any opponent who doesn’t mind his manners, a captain who can castigate and inspire those around him. I’m not saying that Wilshere is there yet, but he’s a heck of a lot closer to it than other options.
In the wake of recent comments from the likes of Arjen Robben, who suggests that he doesn’t know “if Arsenal can keep him if they are not winning things”, some may see the captaincy as bait for keeping Wilshere at Arsenal. I think this is a bit of lazy thinking, not from Robben, who made his point pretty well. It’s the speculation from others that makes little sense. Wilshere has made statements about his intentions that are pretty direct, and he did just sign a five-year extension. Beyond that, he has quickly and thoroughly earned the kind of adoration that money just can’t buy. I’ve spoken in the past about trophies and legends and would further suggest that Wilshere has a chance to earn both by staying at Arsenal.
More than that, though, Wilshere stands out as a strong captain for Arsenal, not just because of his achievements so far or because of the accolades he’s earning, not just to lure him into staying, but because he already leads through virtue of his immeasurable desire to win and through his ability to bring out the best from those around him. That’s leadership, and that’s what’s been lacking from the armband in recent years.
Of course, the pressure and expectations such a move could create could be enormous; it could amount to a coronation, and that’s a risk that Wenger and Wilshere would have to discuss. The man is still young, and he might feel like he has to take over, overextending himself and risking burnout, red-cards, or injury. If Wenger feels that Wilshere can handle that, and that he and other players can support Wilshere, then why not do it? This is quickly becoming Jack’s team, and the faith he inspires in those around him lead to an almost-inevitable conclusion. With a vice-captain like Arteta to provide counsel and to buffer against the pressures, I like where this is heading….