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THE PAIN OF POTENTIAL

Limping contradiction Jack Wilshere — football’s answer to Schrodinger’s Cat

The Gunners' Golden Boy is set to leave the club after 17 years...

You’re familiar with Schrodinger’s cat, right?

It’s a thought experiment in which a feline is locked in a windowless room with a vial of poison that will be released at an unknown time.

The hypothetical situation is used as an example of a paradox — as once the door to the room is closed, nobody knows for sure the condition of the cat.

Schrodinger summarised that the cat is therefore simultaneously both alive and dead.

Don’t worry, we’re still a football website

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Don’t worry, we’re still a football website

Jack Wilshere is most definitely alive.

But he is football’s greatest example of a paradox.

For almost a decade now, he’s simultaneously been both the saviour of English football and an injury-prone fraud.

A walking contradiction… or should that be, limping contradiction?

An all too familiar sight

Arsenal FC - Getty
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An all too familiar sight

The 26-year-old is set to leave Arsenal once his contract expires in June.

By most accounts, Wilshere did not feature in Unai Emery’s plan A, B or C.

After 17 years on the north London club’s books, it’s understandable that fans would experience an emotional reaction to the news.


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In 2008 he became the Gunners’ youngest ever league debutant.

After two seasons of promising League Cup displays, he was thrust not just into the first team, but the starting XI.

He featured in 49 games in the 2010/11 season — a feat almost beyond comprehension given the months he would go on to spend on the treatment table.

Rarely has a teenager generated such excitement

Action Images - Reuters
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Rarely has a teenager generated such excitement

Wilshere was named PFA Young Player of the Year.

He was also included in Team of the Year alongside the likes of Gareth Bale, Nemanja Vidic and Carlos Tevez.

In February of 2011 came the greatest day of his career to date.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona arrived at the Emirates for the first leg of their round of 16 tie as favourites to lift the trophy.

Barca’s midfield trio at the time, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, spent most games honing their passing skills while their shadows played kiss-chase with the opposition.

They didn’t anticipate to be schooled by a teenager from Stevenage.

Catch me if you can

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Catch me if you can

Wilshere exhibited Bulldog spirit in the tackle, and Catalan confidence in possession.

There was a majestic simplicity to his performance that night, a serene maturity.

Arsene Wenger’s pseudo-son was tipped for a future like no other.

He would become the player Paul Gascoigne’s demons wouldn’t let him be — Hoddle, Beckham and Scholes all rolled into one diminutive package.

He was once named Man of the Match in six consecutive England games

PA:Press Association
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He was once named Man of the Match in six consecutive England games

At a time when every other country were desperate to steal Spain’s blueprints, Wilshere emerged with all the ability of an ambitious La Masia prototype.

He looked set to start for club and country for years to come, with many fancying him as a future captain of both.

And then the injuries started.

Wilshere’s determination to fight back time and time again should be commended

Getty Images - Getty
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Wilshere’s determination to fight back time and time again should be commended

A stress fracture to his ankle and subsequent complications after surgery ruled him out of the 2011/12 season and Euro 2012.

Wilshere was named named Man of the Match upon his return to first-team football after 17 months on the sidelines.

But his combative style and lack of luck led to a succession of long-term injuries, including two leg fractures.

One of Arsenal’s own

Action Images - Reuters
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One of Arsenal’s own

Several comebacks have been falsely labelled as the reincarnation of ‘proper Wilshere’.

But there’s no doubt injuries have taken their toll on a gifted midfielder.

Even as recently as last season, fans of other clubs were calling for his inclusion in England’s World Cup squad after a string of influential showings.

Many still believe he is England’s most talented midfielder of the last ten years.

“What do we think of Tottenham?”

Arfa Griffiths - The Sun
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“What do we think of Tottenham?”

And yet, when you remove the intangible factors; the narrative, the emotion, the potential, there’s little evidence to suggest he has been a success.

Incredibly, he’ll leave Arsenal with just seven league goals to his name.

Two of those strikes were named as Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season — that’s some ratio.

His goal against Norwich (a fluid team effort) will forever be one of the Premier League’s greatest masterpieces.

The Gunners’ Golden Boy

Getty - Contributor
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The Gunners’ Golden Boy

Wilshere is destined to feature in lists of players who fell short of their potential.

Not so much a has-been, but a what-could-have-been.

Hopefully we will get to enjoy his talent in the years to come, in whatever shirt he may don next.

Sadly though, there is an unavoidable sense that the damage has already been done to the England legend who never was.