Ink & A Stick

The ramblings of a man who should know better.

Archive for the tag “Tottenham Hotspur”

Jack Wilshere: “King” of the Arsenal?

By George Ogier

Wilshere1With less than a week to go until the new Premier League season kicks off we are deep in to preview territory. Speculation as to how the season will unfold is rife as everyone rushes to make predictions. Some will be looking at a wider picture of the league and others will be searching for fantasy football gold. Either way, opinions are everywhere.

Many clubs have made wholesale changes ahead of the new term but at Arsenal they’re playing a familiar tune. Fans want big name transfers and so far all they’ve got is a youth international from France. However, a quick trawl through newspapers and websites shows that one name appears to make or break Arsenal’s season. Jack Wilshere.

There is an almost mythic quality to the tales of what Jack Wilshere will add to an Arsenal side. He missed the entire 2011/12 season through injury and was only a sporadic team member last term. Despite that, Wilshere has attained a reputation as someone holding the fortunes of the club in his rather young hands.

In recent times Arsenal Football Club have had in their ranks some of modern football’s greatest midfielders. Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Cesc Fabregas have all been integral to the way Arsenal play. It is a testament to the abilities of 21 year-old Wilshere that fans at the Emirates appear to hold the boy from Hitchin in similarly high regard.

There are just four days until Arsenal’s campaign begins at home to Aston Villa. The season hasn’t even begun and already Arsene Wenger is speaking of keep Jack Wilshere “wrapped in cotton wool”. It must be incredibly frustrating for everyone connected with the club that a player so talented seems so fragile, a talismanic figure laid low by perpetual injury.

There is a danger that Jack Wilshere risks turning into something of an excuse for Arsenal. Surely the club is simply a victim of circumstance without their best player. A quick glance up the Seven Sisters Road provides a quick exercise in “could have, would have, should have”. In Ledley King, Spurs fans have the ultimate caveat for the struggles of seasons gone by. “If Ledley had remained fit we’d have been a different team”. Is Jack Wilshere becoming the “King” of The Emirates?

In terms of footballing ability, Ledley King is many people’s pick for the most talented English centre back of his generation. Similarly, people have rushed to anoint Wilshere as the next truly world-class midfielder and the parallels between the two men don’t stop there.

Both King and Wilshere came through the youth teams at their respective clubs and each man was the heir to a throne vacated by a departing hero. In the case of Ledley he replaced Sol Campbell at Spurs when Campbell joined, ironically, Arsenal. It was Jack Wilshere’s lot in life to replace Arsenal club captain, Cesc Fabregas.

When talking about Ledley King two things generally stand out. Firstly the 2006 testament from Thierry Henry –

I don’t like defenders who hold the shirts of other players. The only defender here who doesn’t do that and sometimes still gets the ball off my feet easily is Ledley King. He is the only guy who doesn’t hold players. He will get the ball off you without you even noticing. For me, that is a good defender. He plays without any contact yet is somehow still strong and gets the ball without doing any fouls.”

Secondly there is that tackle on Arjen Robben –

In the same vein, Jack Wilshere already has a career-defining moment to his name. In February 2011 Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1. It was at the height of the Catalan giant’s powers and Wilshere bossed a midfield including Xavi and Iniesta. People were mentioning Jack in the same breath as the Pauls, Scholes and Gascoigne. Wilshere was to be the saviour of the England national side.

That game should have been a launchpad for a glittering career. Sadly, it appears that the stellar showing against Messi and co. is turning into a tale of “what might have been”. It was more than two and a half years ago now and Wilshere hasn’t played a full season since.

Spurs fans like to hold Ledley King up as bastion of one club integrity and loyalty and Wilshere is making similar noises about remaining at Arsenal. Make no mistake about it though, had King stayed fit he eventually would have left Spurs. A fully fit and reliable Jack Wilshire would be hard to keep at The Emirates.

We have seen it unfold time and again with the likes of Berbatov, Van Persie, Modric and Fabregas. The true super powers of football make it almost impossible to resist and North London are getting left behind in football’s arms race. It is easy for the likes of King and Wilshere to publicly devote themselves to one club. There simply aren’t alternatives when you spend more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.

There is every chance that Wilshere might well overcome these injury troubles and go on to have a long and illustrious time in football. As it stands though he is fast becoming a crutch for Wenger and Arsenal supporters to lean upon. As a Spurs fan I maintain that Tottenham Hotspur spent too long getting hung up on the possibility of Ledley King rather than the reality. With Jack Wilshere there is a danger that Arsenal are going the same way.


Bale Sale: The shop window effect holds Spurs back

By George Ogier

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The biggest star in the Spurs team signs a contract extension to stay at the club. This is reportedly on the proviso that they’re allowed to leave if certain “big clubs”come calling. Real Madrid do indeed knock at a well-worn front door and then all hell breaks loose.

Bale1If you believe everything you read – and you’d have some odd opinions if you did – Daniel Levy has been at it again. In 2011 it was suggested that Levy had persuaded Luka Modric to sign a contract extension with a gentleman’s agreement concerning the terms whereby Modric would be allowed to leave the club.

In that instance it was Chelsea who made the initial move but Levy stood his ground and Modric joined Real Madrid 12 months later. Another year on and Los Blancos are back, this time for Gareth Bale and there is a depressing inevitability about the whole situation.

“Sources” have been busy in the last seven days. The latest line to come from people buzzing around Gareth’s recently streamlined ears is that Bale only re-signed for Spurs when Levy said that the PFA player of the year would be allowed to join Real Madrid should they want him.

Whatever the truth of the situation it is one in which Spurs fans have plenty of experience and very little enjoyment. Once again, the team shows signs of really being able to push on and once again the club looks likely to lose its best player.

People have pointed to the departures of Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick and Modric as a template for these wranglings but only the Modric saga is really applicable in this case. When Berbatov and Carrick joined Manchester United Tottenham were a very different animal.

When Carrick and Berbatov left Tottenham the club were routinely beaten by those in the sides in the top four. Spurs had almost finished fourth in 05/06 but that was due to the poor form of others as much a stellar Spurs season.

Last term Tottenham finished with their record points total in the Premier League. In any other year 72 points would have guaranteed a fourth place finish and even second place in some seasons. Spurs are now a match for any team in the top division and are in a position to build a team capable of great things.

This potential is brought into a slightly sharper focus when you consider the managerial changes at the top of the league. Four of the top six clubs and all of the top three have switched managers over the summer. It is reasonable to suggest that one of these changes won’t go as smoothly as expected and a talented but stable team could well take advantage of such upheaval.

Obviously I write this with a huge slice of bias but I genuinely think that Spurs are two or three good signings from being a real force in the Premier League. However, that claim comes with a large caveat and it is simply this. The club cannot afford to keep selling its star performers.

The idea of Gareth Bale playing alongside new signings like Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, and possibly Roberto Soldado is exciting for any Spurs fan. In a season where so many changes are taking place, keeping hold of a talented coach and a genuinely world-class player could make a huge difference.

Klins1Whilst it is easy to get carried away with such dreams there is an ugly reality to consider. Players don’t join Tottenham because they think they can win things. They join because, like it or not, the club are a stepping stone. You would have to go back to 1994 for the last time Spurs signed a genuinely top-level superstar, and even then it was the already 30-year-old, Jurgen Klinsmann.

Tottenham are a bridge between smaller English or continental sides and the huge teams of Europe. Players join Spurs because they can perform in a good side and get noticed by better ones. Carrick, Berbatov and Modric all came from smaller clubs and moved on to bigger things.

The players who join and don’t move up the ladder find their level – Defoe, Dawson, looking at his subsequent career, Robbie Keane – and stay. Otherwise they drop off and are moved on, David Bentley, Helder Postiga, Sergei Rebrov etc. Spurs are a perfect shop window for talented, driven players and Gareth Bale is both.

There is one big difference between the Bale situation and those which have gone before. Gareth is good enough to help Spurs make the jump from stepping stone to a side capable of great things, few of Tottenham’s past stars have had that ability.

Even with that in mind we have to accept that Bale knows his own worth. By joining Real Madrid he could have La Liga and Champions League medals in less than twelve months. The Welshman would be joining a team already capable of winning the lot. Staying with a team that is clearly a work in progress, even if it moving in the right direction, is hardly as appealing.

As a Tottenham supporter I would dearly love Gareth Bale to stay at White Hart Lane. The romantic in me dreams of watching a side built around his talents for years to come. However, the realist in me knows that it an unlikely outcome. I just hope that the situation is resolved as quickly as possible.

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