Before yesterday’s game against Rangers, Wenger was trying desperately to quell the ever-increasing excitement over the performances of Jack Wilshere, after the precocious teenager had played a starring role in our second half improvement against Atletico Madrid, saying ‘Don’t get too carried away after 45 minutes in a friendly’. He was fooling no-one.
Superb as he was for that period, it is more than that – we’ve known about Jack for nearly two years now, as he constantly lit up our reserve side before showing equally impressive form in last summer’s preseason. A sterling performance against Wigan in the Carling Cup only enhanced the feeling that this was a special talent.
And so while Wenger is certainly wise to try to keep a lid on things, especially in a climate where one great performance has Sky speculating on whether Wilshere can reach the World Cup squad next summer, he was powerless to stop the excitement levels amplifying further thanks to Jack’s second appearance of the weekend, an even better display against Rangers, and this time topped by two goals.
The first came after only two minutes, finishing a move he had been involved in with a clever dummy seconds earlier, and the second an impudent finish after great work from two other starlets on the rise – Watt and Ramsey. Those goals sandwiched a typical Eduardo finish after being put through by Merida.
Pre-season it may be, but displays like this make you realise why Wenger feels he has so much in reserve. We talk about the need for another central midfielder, but instead of the enforcer we desire, Wenger decides he wants all of them to be dynamic, mobile, and fluent in attack, and adds Merida, Wilshere and Ramsey to the list of Cesc, Denilson, Diaby, and Song.
I’m not saying he’s right – the balance still feels wrong. In my mind, you need three types of player in any squad, and a plentiful supply of each. The first set are the first teamers, and we’re fine there – our first team is as good as anyone’s. The second set are the youngsters, and again we probably match anyone in the world there.
But it is the third set that we fall down on – the reserves that push both the first teamers and the kids, the experienced players that make sure the stars have competition for places, and the kids have to fight to get in at all. In some areas (notably attacking midfielders and up front), we have this, but this is where the defensive spine of the team is lacking in numbers. If Denilson and Diaby are the players pushing to get into the team, and Wilshere and Ramsey are the kids, that leaves only Cesc as a first teamer when you consider Wenger’s assertion that Song will eventually be a centre half.
Even with Wenger’s belief that Denilson is a first teamer, that leaves us short in reserve. Whatever way you look at it, we’re a player short. Same story at the back.
But I don’t want to over analyse the squad today. Whatever transfer action will happen, will happen. What excites me more is that so many of these kids look a year more experienced than last summer.
And Wenger can call for calm as much as he likes, but the prospect of Wilshere learning his trade at our club is utterly mouthwatering.