Tony Adams, THE Mr. Arsenal. The iconic defender and captain led Arsenal’s back line during some of the best times in Arsène Wenger’s career in North London. He made over 650 appearances during his time at Arsenal, collecting four League titles, three FA Cups, two League cups and, on top of that, three Community Shields and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup. He was a leader and an authority figure on the pitch, an inspiration and role model to those playing around him.
Adams spent his entire career at Arsenal and epitomises what loyalty and leadership means to a club. His success during his time at Arsenal was of course aided by the quality of the team around him and in the few seasons following his retirement in 2002, Arsenal managed very well. The team of 03/04 famously went on to complete 49 games unbeaten, with the influential Frenchman, Patrick Vieira captaining the side. They were branded “The Invincibles” and went on to win the FA Cup in 2005 and reach the Champions League Final in 2006, where they fell to Barcelona.
However since that FA Cup win the trophy cabinet at Arsenal has remained empty. Their best chance of silverware since then was the 2011 League Cup final against Birmingham, when they lost 2-1, courtesy of a nightmare mistake from Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny.
Players have come and gone since the glory years, none of which have stayed long enough or had a big enough impact to stamp their authority on the team like Adams and Vieira did. The player who could have become the next leader for Arsenal was one talented Spaniard, Cesc Fabregas. He had all the qualities required as a world class midfielder and after being at the club for eight years, was getting to an age where players would start to look up to him. But after a lengthy spell of speculation involving a return to his boyhood club, Arsène Wenger’s resolve deteriorated and he could hold on to him no longer. He finally made his £35 million move back to Barcelona in the summer of 2011 and Arsenal were back to square one.
Nevertheless, there is a new ray of hope at the Emirates, and he goes by the name of Jack Wilshere. As a youngster, he was labelled by Arsenal fans to be the next big thing. Of course there were the sceptics, as this term is now thrown around rather freely when a new young talent comes to light. Only recently a picture went viral of the once promising Michael Johnson of Manchester City, but that’s a different story.
Jack Wilshere’s talent was recognised more widely by the press and other fans after his man of the match display against Barcelona back in 2011. However it wasn’t long after that, that he acquired a mixture of ankle and knee injuries that would keep him out of action for around sixteen months. Understandably, Arsenal fans were worried, which isn’t surprising given how injuries have affected other players in the team, most notably Abou Diaby, who has been on and off of the physio’s table for years.
But he persevered, which has led to great praise from the manager, and since making his long awaited come back to the first team in late 2012 he has impressed.
His most influential performance was the FA Cup replay against Swansea, in which Arsenal won 1-0 to progress to the 4th round. In a performance that showed his dynamism, technical talent and sheer hard work, it looks like Jacks getting back to his best. The team as a whole played very well but Jack was the inspired player in the middle dictating the play and he capped his game off with the winning goal.
But there was a more important aspect to his performance in that game, and that was leadership. At the age of 21 he was vocal to the final whistle, keeping everyone in check and set an example to the rest of his team with the hard work and determination he put in.
Jack has been at Arsenal since the age of nine, and has signed a long-term contract at with the club that will keep him at the Emirates until 2018. He, among others, has made his desire to stay at Arsenal clear and with the qualities he is displaying, could go on to captain Arsenal in the manner Tony Adams did.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Keiran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey are the others to have signed new long-term contracts, with Theo Walcott having penned a 3 and a half-year deal. They are all talented, British players who Wenger hopes will be the core of the team in years to come, and with a player like Jack Wilshere to lead them, it is possible that Arsenal’s glory years may yet be revived.
There is a bright future at Arsenal, with Jack Wilshere as the central figure. I for one look forward to seeing the status he achieves in world football, and the level of the team that develops around him.