The Arsenal midfield prodigy Jack Wilshere, the club's fans' player of the season, has admitted that it would be a "disaster" if Arsenal were not to win a trophy next season.
Wilshere, who joined his senior England team-mates at the squad's hotel in Hertfordshire last night, said that the current run of six seasons without a trophy was unacceptable for a club of Arsenal's size. The 19-year-old's emergence this year as one of the finest English players in the Premier League has been one of the few bright spots in another gloomy year for Arsenal.
Wilshere, who is expected to start for England in Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland, said: "Arsenal is a big club and we need to be winning trophies and we need to win them to keep our big players – sooner rather than later. One hundred per cent it will be a disaster if we don't win a trophy next season. We know that. The fans feel it. We feel it. We just need to win a trophy."
Crucial to Arsenal's future will be whether Cesc Fabregas stays at the club this summer having asked to be able to return to Barcelona last summer. There is also likely to be interest in the Arsenal captain from Manchester City, who have the resources to pay the transfer fee and wages even above and beyond Barcelona.
Wilshere said that keeping Fabregas was critical to Arsenal ending their dismal run without a trophy. "He [Cesc] is our best player. In some of our games he has been our best player by a mile, and we need to keep our best players if we want to win things.
"He talks to me about football. He's the club captain, he likes Arsenal, and I'm sure he wants to be at Arsenal. He's the club captain and I'm sure if they can reach an agreement then I'm sure he'll want to stay. He's the Arsenal captain and he needs to stay.
"He's been over in England eight years, but Barcelona is his home. It's hard for him so I can understand where he's coming from. But he's the Arsenal captain and he's been great this season and we hope he can be great next season."
Wilshere was outspoken on where he feels his Arsenal team-mates could toughen up their act – especially in the case of making their presence felt around referees. While not suggesting that they should begin a campaign of intimidation around match officials, Wilshere has noticed in his first full season that the successful clubs tend to petition referees strongly.
"We need to be more aware and have a bit more aggression," he said. "We've got some players that can do that but we have to go as a team. It's no use just [Robin] Van Persie going because it looks like it's just him having a go at the ref. If we all get round him...
"You just see the other teams do it and you think, 'We need to do it as well'. Manchester United are the best at it. They get round the referee. We have to be more of a team and be more aggressive and show more authority and take control a bit more."
Asked whether Arsenal have been soft and naive this season, Wilshere said: "Yeah, I think we are and some of our players would be the first to admit that. We've been too nice in defending. I've heard Bacary Sagna say this year we've been too nice and we have to be a bit more nasty, especially on set-pieces because we've conceded too many goals from set-pieces."
Wilshere defended Arsène Wenger, whose policy it has been this season – as it has always been – to take the flak for his players rather than blame them. Wilshere said: "At the end of the day it's down to the players he puts on the pitch. He can't run on the pitch and perform instead of us. He's a good manager; he wants to protect his players. But we have to take responsibility.
"We know we need to keep up with the top four. We need to stay in the top four and push on for a trophy. We were so close this year."