Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWilshere Leads the Lions Forward - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Wilshere Leads the Lions Forward - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Wilshere Leads the Lions Forward

Arsenal had a strange week.

On Wednesday they were beating arguably the best side in the world, Barcelona, in the Champions League, before a crowd of over 60,000 fans.

Then by Sunday, they had been held to a 1-1 draw at League One side Leyton Orient in the F.A Cup, in-front of less than 10,000 spectators at a packed Brisbane Road.

Yet in a contrasting few days for The Gunners, the subject of my interest was instead a member of the Orient line-up.

Terrell Forbes took his place at the heart of the O’s backline when this time 12 years ago, the defender was set for great things. Forbes was part of the famous West Ham youth team that won the 1999 F.A Youth Cup. A team-mate of Michael Carrick and Joe Cole, the squad was billed as the future of English football.

Yet only some made the grade and with the climax of the World Cup last summer coinciding with England’s ominous exit in the last sixteen to Germany; the era of the current national set-up abruptly ended.

It was seen as the “Golden Generation”. The Hammers produced fine talent in abundance, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe all joined Cole and Carrick through the production line at Upton Park. Others began to break into the England set-up, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and more recently Gareth Barry.

These players are still established in the Three Lions squad but all have reached their thirties bar Defoe, Carrick and Cole, who are 28, 29 and 29 respectively. For each of them though, the next World Cup in Brazil 2014 seems one tournament too far, most of them will be 34 whilst Lampard will be 36.

As that crop of the best English talent from the late 90’s: early 00’s promised so much but ultimately delivered so little, what can England produce over the next decade that will convince a nation success is within sight?

Now that is what leads me back to Arsenal. 

Jack Wilshere may have been an unused substitute on Sunday, but it was his performance in midweek that caught the eye. The young playmaker was instrumental in the home side’s triumph, his display overshadowing the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and even the World’s Best Player, Lionel Messi.

What is so alluring about Wilshere is his startling amount of confidence. It was with ease that the 19 year-old dropped off midfield, collected the ball and shielded it from the World Cup winners that pressured him before finding a pass. His discipline was exceptional, alongside Alex Song Wilshere formed a resolute barrier in-front of the Arsenal defence. When he held possession, he broke with intent creating more than one opportunity for his team-mates.

His maturity is beyond belief for someone so young, his unselfishness is a trait not many possess, in-fact some of the only players that seem to have such a gift were the three aforementioned Spaniards that made up his opponents midfield.

Wilshere has established himself as a key component in Arsene Wenger’s team this campaign and for the good of the country; Fabio Capello will do the same.

For Arsenal, Wenger knows how to get the best from his young starlet. Place him in a deep lying midfield duo with a ball winner and the Frenchman knows Wilshere will flourish. Yet, if Capello continues to play the teenager as a sole holding midfielder, as he did against Denmark earlier in the month, England will not reap the benefits of such an exciting prospect. Wilshere needs freedom; he needs to be able to control the game, not just through possession but in attacking phases of play.

You’ll never see Xavi without a ‘Sergio Busquets’, the same way Wilshere shouldn’t be wasted in a ‘Makelele’ type role. Lampard has proved himself a world-class talent and a brilliant servant to his country, but nothing lasts forever and now could be the right time to make a change.

The same goes for the rest of the squad. Before Capello hands on the legacy to a new manager following Euro 2012, he must first lay down the foundations for a better future, something to the Italian’s credit, he is beginning to do.

Players such as Kieran Gibbs, Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson and Chris Smalling have been added to recent squads but they must start to feature regularly now so they can gel as a unit.

You only have to look at the youthful German side to see that the earlier you start moulding a squad together, the more success is seems to have.

Some individuals are beginning to announce themselves as permanent fixtures already. 21 and 23 year-olds Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson could be the English wide-men for years to come, whilst also at the tender ages of 23 and 25 Aaron Lennon and Ashley Young are not bad reserves. In goal, Joe Hart has made himself the Number 1 and also being in his early twenties, the Manchester City stopper has what it takes to become one of the world’s best.

Up-front it goes without saying that Wayne Rooney will remain the country’s talisman for at least another two World Cups and alongside him, for me, there is only one choice.

Now Britain’s most expensive footballer, Andy Carroll has the world at his feet, or head if you will. If England want to utilise what could be the most lethal partnership in recent years, the huge striker should continue to partner Rooney like he did for the friendly against France in November. Add this to the emergence of the quick footed yet tall and muscular 17 year-old Connor Wickham at Ipswich and there is further cause for optimism.

Yet, with all the promise and expectation comes the reminder of the previous generation and who knows, in another 12 years this country’s success could still be non-existent.

In Wilshere and co however, you get the feeling we could be on to something.

James Shipp

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