World Cup stuff to come shortly, but we’ll start with some interesting stuff from Jack Wilshere this morning.
He talked about the disappointment of England’s World Cup campaign, but also acknowledged that it was no longer a case that he could be referred to as one of his countries ‘young’ players. Ok, in comparison to the likes of Gerrard and Lampard he is, but he’s more matter of fact about it, saying:
Time is running out for us to say we’re young any more. I’m going to be 23 in January and that’s a good age for a footballer.
I think he’s doing himself a slight disservice, to be honest. 22/23 is still young in my eyes, but Wilshere has been around for what seems like a long time, and the fact that his career has been punctuated and disrupted by injury is something you just can’t avoid when you’re talking about him.
As I’ve said a number of times here, last season was one in which Wilshere had to stay fit for the most part. The confidence gained from playing regularly and not being out for a prolonged period would stand him in good stead. If there’s any comfort to be taken from his late season absence it’s that it came from the kind of injury that can happen to any player at any time. I would hope that it serves as something of a lesson for him – that there’s no need to go for those 50/50s in a meaningless international friendly – but the key thing is that it wasn’t a recurrence of the problems that have plagued him in the past.
All the same, he played 48 games for club and country in 2013-14, and his stats and productivity were much improved. Five goals and four assists isn’t going to see him top any charts, but it was a step forward. Where I do agree with him fully is when he talks about next season:
It’s a big season for me, it’s a big season for Arsenal.
And his determination to step up is obvious when he talks about cutting short his post-World Cup holiday to ensure his maintains his fitness. It appears the trip to New York is probably too soon though:
I’m going to carry on training, do my bit, because I only played two games in the last three or four months. I will go back early. They are going away to New York and I’m not sure I’m going on that, but I will definitely still do my little bit. My fitness is on the way up and I don’t want to lose that.
You really can’t fault that attitude, and I’d be looking for Wilshere to try and replicate the progress of Aaron Ramsey. After the Welshman’s career looked to be heading in the wrong direction, he consolidated, simplified his game, and became an important player in the second part of the 2012/13 campaign. We know then what he did last season, and while I think it’s unrealistic to expect Jack to match him with regards to the goalscoring impact, it is time for him to start fulfilling the potential that has made him one of the most talked about young players the club has produced in years.
As yet he hasn’t really nailed down a position in the team, and with the current group of players, it’s hard to see him in the starting XI. Yet that was true of other players in the not too distant past, and to my mind it’s a healthy situation for the club and the player. It challenges Wilshere, and other players, to force their way into the team rather than being there by default as has happened too often in the past. Jack sounds like he’s up for it too, so fingers crossed we all see the benefit of that next season.
To the World Cup now and France’s 0-0 draw with Ecuador cost me my treble after wins for Switzerland and Argentina. The Ecuadorian keeper was as good as Benzema and Giroud and Pogba’s finishing was bad, and the South American side caused the French defence plenty of problems even after they’d gone down to 10 men after Antonio Valencia’s over the ball challenge. I didn’t see much of the Honduras v Switzerland game, but Shaqiri’s first goal was an absolute peach as he scored a hat-trick and secured their place in the last 16.
Earlier, Argentina v Nigeria was something of a cracker with great goals from both sides. Obviously the presence of Messi ensures that the Argentinians are talked about as potential winners, but they looked quite suspect in midfield and defence yesterday, and when they start to face the better teams you wonder if that will be their downfall.
Today we’ve got Arsenal interest as Germany take on the USA in what promises to be a very interesting game. A draw will see the US qualify for sure, and they can even lose and qualify depending on what happens between Ghana and Portugal. The Ghanaians will be well and truly up for it now that they’ve got paid, but playing with $3m down their socks might be a bit of a challenge.
Later Algeria play Russia as Belgium take on South Korea. And tomorrow, get this, there’s a ‘rest day’. The first day without football for ages. It’ll be all weird and quiet and stuff. Expect a raft of fictionalised transfer stories to make up for it.
Right, that’s that for this morning. Have a good one, more here tomorrow.