From teenage dream to injury nightmare… the highs and lows of Jack Wilshere’s 15-year career


‘Spanish technique, with an English heart’.  

The phrase uttered by Arsene Wenger in 2011, just three years into Jack Wilshere’s dazzling teenage career, aptly demonstrated the hype surrounding the former England international.

Wilshere, 30, called an end to his troubled, injury-ridden career on Friday after enduring a turbulent 15-year journey from future star to Premier League castaway.

Jack Wilshere has called an end to his time in football after a 15-year career of highs and lows

A decade ago, reigning World Cup and European champions Spain were regarded as the best in international football, thanks to their revolutionary and attractive brand of tiki-taka passing.

For the midfielder to be judged in Spain’s company as a teenager spoke volumes, especially amongst the hopeful or disaffected England fans who were waiting impatiently for a new Three Lions superstar to arrive.

Soon after Wenger identified Wilshere in such a way, the youngster endured his first major ankle injury in 2011 and was subsequently ruled out of the 2011-12 campaign. 

The England international was blighted by injury and failed to reach his true potential

The England international was blighted by injury and failed to reach his true potential

Ever since, the ex-Arsenal star has been forced to tap into his ‘English heart’ instead, resiliently enduring a glut of injury setbacks every year – Wilshere never again played more than 35 Premier League matches in a season after 2010-11.

Here, Sportsmail has taken a look at the highs and lows of Wilshere’s disruptive career, after he decided to hang up his boots once and for all on Friday.

High – Bossing Barcelona 

At the age of 19, Wilshere showcased a memorable man of the match display against Barcelona, as Arsenal beat the Catalan club 2-1 in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s side was graced with the likes of Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi, but the world-class trio were no match for the Gunners’ teenager.

With confidence in possession, aggressive tackling and sublime one-touch passing, Wilshere helped Arsenal dominate Barcelona’s star-studded midfield and overturn a one-goal deficit to win the match.

Man of the match Wilshere (R) rubbed shoulders with Xavi (L) and Andreas Iniesta in 2011

Man of the match Wilshere (R) rubbed shoulders with Xavi (L) and Andreas Iniesta in 2011

Displaying one of the greatest ever performances against Barcelona amongst box-to-box midfielders, the starlet looked for all the world as if he would emerge one of the finest English players of his generation.

His first moment of brilliance came in the 22nd minute, as the ball dropped loose inside the centre circle.

After the match, Arsene Wenger described Wilshere as having an 'English heart'

After the match, Arsene Wenger described Wilshere as having an ‘English heart’ 

Wilshere slid in confidently to dispossess Pedro before swiftly controlling the ball away from Iniesta in one fluid motion. 

As the Catalan midfielders hunted him down, the youngster fed a neat ball through to Robin van Persie, inciting an exuberant cheer from the Emirates faithful. 

Wilshere exploded into life shortly after the break in an effort to reduce the 1-0 half-time deficit, instantly playing a shrewd one-two with Cesc Fabregas to breeze past three Barcelona shirts and work a shot on goal.

And in the 84th minute, the 19-year-old was crucial to the build-up of Andrey Arshavin’s winner.

Unfazed by Barcelona’s high press, Wilshere coolly threaded a one-touch pass through to Fabregas to take four opponents out of the game, allowing Arsenal to break and set-up Arshavin for the winning goal.

The creative midfielder went on to score 14 goals and assist 30 in 197 appearances for Arsenal

The creative midfielder went on to score 14 goals and assist 30 in 197 appearances for Arsenal

After the match, Guardiola heaped praise on the youngster.

‘Wilshere is a top player,’ the Spanish boss said. ‘He has been a big surprise.’

‘I did not know him at the beginning of the season – he is an excellent player for Arsenal but also for the national team.’

Low – Ankle fracture in 2011

After a sensational 2010-11 campaign, which prompted ex-England boss Fabio Capello to label Wilshere the ‘future’ of English football, the midfielder fractured his right ankle in a pre-season friendly against New York Red Bulls.

Wilshere hobbled off against New York Red Bulls in pre-season and missed all of 2011-12

Wilshere hobbled off against New York Red Bulls in pre-season and missed all of 2011-12

The friendly match in Emirates Cup was the highlight of Arsenal’s pre-season, as club legend Thierry Henry prepared to return to his old stomping and grace the Gunners fans.

Wilshere hobbled off in the seventh minute with what seemed at first glance to be a minor ankle injury, although it subsequently turned into a significant problem.

Hopeful of a speedy recovery, Capello called up the youngster seven days later to face Holland in a midweek England friendly, but he was quickly withdrawn from the squad.

In a bid to solve his nagging ankle problems, Wilshere underwent surgery and ultimately missed the next 65 weeks of football.

After going under the knife and missing the entire 2011-12 campaign, the midfielder arguably failed to reach the same heights ever since.

High – 2014 Goal of the Season vs Norwich

When fans consider the greatest ever Premier League goal, the debate is often dominated by sublime individual moments, such as Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick against Manchester City or Dennis Bergkamp’s skilful pirouette against Newcastle.

But Wilshere’s goal of the season against Norwich in 2014 was selected for arguably the opposite reason – it capped off an exceptional team move.

As Santi Cazorla charged at the Canaries from the left-flank, he found Wilshere on the edge of the box in front of a sea of yellow shirts.

He capped off a brilliant team move to claim the Premier League goal of the season in 2014

He capped off a brilliant team move to claim the Premier League goal of the season in 2014

The playmaker started the superb one-touch goal before ending it with a sublime volley

The playmaker started the superb one-touch goal before ending it with a sublime volley

Wilshere quickly returned the ball to the Spaniard with two touches, before charging in support of Olivier Giroud in attack.

Receiving a pass from Cazorla, the French striker casually flicked the ball into the air towards Wilshere, who majestically found Giroud again with his left foot. 

As the one-touch move continued, Giroud chipped the ball once again to his team-mate, stunning the disorientated Norwich defenders. 

Wilshere, who was still midway through the same charging run, used his weaker foot to caress the ball into the bottom left-hand corner, before charging towards the corner flag to celebrate with the Arsenal fans.

The sensational one-touch goal typified Wenger’s creative attacking style and will go down as one of the greatest team moves in Premier League history. 

Low – Off-field antics

As a young star, despite displaying unquestionable talents on the pitch, Wilshere failed to escape the spotlight off the field for all the wrong reasons.

The young English star was pictured lighting up outside a London nightclub in 2013, following a two-day break after Arsenal’s 2-0 Champions League win against Napoli.

Wilshere, who has since admitted to the ‘mistakes’ he made earlier in his career, received a stern telling-off by Wenger and subsequently promised fans he was not a smoker.

Wilshere inspired a expletive-ridden chant about Spurs after winning the FA Cup in 2014

Wilshere inspired a expletive-ridden chant about Spurs after winning the FA Cup in 2014

However, in July 2014, he was caught smoking once again alongside Joe Hart in Las Vegas.

A few months earlier, after helping Arsenal lift the FA Cup for the first time since 2005, Wilshere took to he microphone on the open bus tour to conduct an expletive-ridden chant about north London rivals Tottenham.   

Social media erupted as several football fans criticised Wilshere for his behaviour, which incited a social media apology from the midfielder.

High – Double against Slovenia

He may not have lived up to the England career he was once promised, but Wilshere turned on the style to spark a comeback against Slovenia in 2015.

As the Three Lions fell one behind at the break during the important Euro 2016 qualifier, Wilshere produced a sensational brace inside 15 minutes to inspire a 3-2 victory.

In the 57th minute, the midfielder capitalised on a lose ball outside the box, hitting a clean strike goalward with his left-foot.

Wilshere's powerful equaliser against Slovenia marked his first international for England

Wilshere’s powerful equaliser against Slovenia marked his first international for England

The shot rocketed past Samir Handanovic between the sticks and clawed England back into the contest.

He struck gold once again in the 73rd minute with a thunderbolt from distance, making the most of Adam Lallana’s smart lay-off by thumping the ball into the top corner. 

The two stunning strikes were Wilshere’s only goals in an England shirt during his career, having made 34 senior appearances for the Three Lions.

His second goal rocketed past an unmoved Samir Handanovic to fire the Three Lions 2-1 ahead

His second goal rocketed past an unmoved Samir Handanovic to fire the Three Lions 2-1 ahead





Source link