Wilshere ready to sign new Arsenal deal
While Theo Walcott considers leaving, England star pledges future to troubled Gunners
The morning after the dark night of defeat by League Two opposition was hardly the ideal time to be facing the media but, to his credit, Jack Wilshere turned up, fronted up and even offered up a Christmas present to Arsenal supporters: he expects to sign a new contract imminently.
After the departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie in the past 18 months, it would be one thing to lose Theo Walcott, which remains increasingly likely, but the prospect of Wilshere following the other attacking quartet out the door once his existing contract expired in two seasons' time would cause even the most devoted loyalists to wonder where the club is going.
At least they can be assured that their greatest home-grown talent since Liam Brady is going nowhere. He has been at the club since the age of nine, which he believes puts him in a different category to those who have moved on: "Top players have probably thought they don't see a bright future at Arsenal, but I think it's different for them, they were a bit older than me. I'm 20, I've still got a long way, touch wood, in my career.
"Players like Robin are older and maybe he thought he hadn't got time any more. Cesc wanted to go home, which was understandable, but for me, I'm young and there are older players around me, and also younger players around me, the likes of [Alex Oxlade-] Chamberlain and [Kieran] Gibbs, who are still really young players. So in the next three or four years they can become top, top players and we can challenge for everything."
That challenge, he insists, can go on this season in every competition except the Capital One Cup, in which coming through the tie at Bradford City would have offered by far the easiest route to ending the much-quoted trophy drought stretching back to a fortunate FA Cup success in 2005. "We have to know our season's not over," said Wilshere. "The Capital One Cup, as the boss said, was not one of our main targets – obviously it's nice to get a trophy and we were all up for it and wanted to win it, but we had a real shock exit and it's disappointing. We knew it was going to be a tough game.
"It's difficult for players, especially in their first season, to come here and know what Bradford away is like. Maybe you think Bradford away is going to be easy but, trust me, it's not. It's quicker and maybe even more intense than the Premier League, they get up to you and close you down, and maybe they don't understand that. But they'll adapt to that and they will learn.
"It's only December, there's a long way to go, and we're still in every other competition – Champions' League, FA Cup, we're a bit far behind in the Premier League but we know what we have to do in that sense. We can still realistically win everything we're in. Football changes quickly. If we win three games and another team loses a couple and draws one, we're back in it."
Optimistic or not, this is not some naïve young man looking to curry favour. For someone not 21 until New Year's Day, Wilshere talks with impressive maturity and does not shy away from addressing the criticism directed at players who have recorded the worst points total and fourth worst goals tally of Arsène Wenger's 16 full seasons at the club.
He may have been speaking at an EA Sports Fifa 13 Ultimate Team event but he is well aware that Arsenal hardly fit that particular bill at present. The Invincibles they are not. "It's too long for a club like Arsenal [without a trophy]," he agreed. "We should be winning things. We used to in the past and there's no reason we can't in the future. The players have to look at themselves. The manager puts a team on the pitch and if the players can't do it, it's not the manager's fault."
Wenger's position is the subject of debate as never before. A straw poll of straw polls taken yesterday indicated widely differing levels of backing for the manager, though in several of them the greatest support is for waiting until the end of the season to see if silverware arrives. Fourth place – and continued participation in the Champions' League – does not appear to count for fans as a trophy in the manner it does for Wenger, who clearly values it some way above the League Cup.
Rumours have surfaced that Wenger has not allowed the newly promoted coach Steve Bould sufficient authority, but Wilshere says: "A lot has changed under him, we're doing a lot more on team shape and things like that so we know it will be tough and there's a long way to go in the season, it'll be a tough season but we have to show character now."
Regardless of the actual quality of new recruits such as Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski – who may or not be joined by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in January – character and determination will be prized as much as anything from here on in. It is the shape of the season that matters now, starting tomorrow at Reading.
Reading v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm
Join Jack Wilshere on EA Sports Fifa 13 Ultimate Team as you build your ultimate squad, auction for new players and compete with your Ultimate Team online. Buy Ultimate Team points now at Game.co.uk
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