Arsenal reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup over the weekend courtesy of a 5-0 thrashing of non-league outfit Lincoln City at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s men didn’t have it all their own way though, with the Imps proving stubborn and tough to break down for much of the first half, but Theo Walcott set the Gunners on their way with his 17th goal of the season just before the break.
And that did for Danny Cowley’s side, as second half goals from Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, and Aaron Ramsey, as well as an own goal from Luke Waterfall, secured the top-flight’s side safe passage into the last four.
Wenger’s side will face Manchester City in the semi-finals at Wembley next month, and alongside their quest for a 21st successive top four finish in the Premier League, the Gunners have much to play for between now and May.
However, that hasn’t stopped speculation arising about potential incomings and outgoings in North London, and the future of one man has been in the news in recent days, namely Jack Wilshere.
The England international, currently on loan at fellow Premier League outfit Bournemouth, has admitted that he is unsure whether he’ll be at the Emirates next season, after a campaign which has seen him start 19 league games for Eddie Howe’s Cherries, albeit only directly contribute to two of their 40 league goals.
And that is one thing the 25-year-old will quite simply have to improve should he want a return to Arsenal next season.
Although several people, Bournemouth fans and supporters of other clubs, have been impressed with Wilshere’s displays in the midfield for the Cherries this term, to only register two assists, both of which have come in his last ten appearances, is slightly disappointing.
Nonetheless, his tally of 30 chances created is more than any other Bournemouth player this term (incidentally, only Alexis Sanchez (64) and Mesut Ozil (59) have created more for Arsenal), which suggests that he is doing his bit in the attacking areas of the pitch – he’ll just hope for more contributions between now and May.
Moreover, the Gunners’ biggest issue in recent seasons, as well as this one, has been their performances against the top sides, and this is something Wenger will quite simply have to improve next term if they are to challenge for the Premier League title.
And Wilshere could be the ideal man to bring into the midfield for those sorts of games based on his efforts against those sides this term.
The 25-year-old performed well and helped the Cherries to a 4-3 success over Liverpool back in December and, despite losing 3-0 to Chelsea on Boxing Day, it was Wilshere who looked the most threatening for Bournemouth, and forced two good saves out of Thibaut Courtois.
This is something Wenger will be thrilled to see, and although Wilshere didn’t have his best game against Manchester City a few weeks ago, he has done reasonably well against the top sides, and if you add in some of England displays in the past, notably the sensational one against Brazil in 2013, you’ve got someone who isn’t overawed by the occasion, and often produces his best against the best.
Arsenal need that.
Ultimately though, Wilshere will have to prove his fitness to Wenger over the coming months at Bournemouth, as well as in pre-season in the summer.
Since making his Premier League debut back in 2008, the 25-year-old has only ever managed more than 25 league appearances in a season once, and that was when he missed just three of Arsenal’s league matches in the 2010/11 campaign – the one where he was named in the PFA Team of the Year, the PFA Young Player of the Year, and the Arsenal Player of the Season.
Arsenal need consistency in that midfield area, so if Wilshere, who has already made 22 appearances for Bournemouth this term, can remain injury-free between now and May, as well as continuing to churn out solid displays, then he may well be in Wenger’s plans for next season.