England’s quest for the first major trophy since Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup in 1966 suffered a late blow as Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was ruled out for rest of the season and the European Championship.
“Wilshere will not go to the Euros, that’s for sure,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger following Arsenal’s disappointing home defeat to Wigan on Monday night.
Wilshere, the 20-year-old, was touted as the ‘Next Big Thing’ in English football following his inspiring performances for Arsenal during the 2010-11 season.
Blessed with fantastic technical abilities and a keen football brain, Wilshere was expected by many to be one of the first names on the team-sheet at Euro 2012 despite holding only five England caps. The Arsenal midfielder, who made his debut in August 2010, was expected by many to shoulder his team’s responsibilities in the centre of park at the tournament in Ukraine and Poland.
Wilshere brought the much needed creativity in the England midfield that had been lacking for years. It was even remarked that his emergence had lifted the burden on Wayne Rooney as the most creative player in the national team. Under such circumstances, the news of his unavailability comes as a massive blow for his country.
With Wilshere ruled out of the European Championship, who will ‘replace’ him? Scott Parker is almost certain to hold onto his place at the heart of the midfield following a string of strong performances for the Three Lions during the Euro qualifiers, which earned him the captain’s armband during the friendly against Netherlands.
Now the question is: Who will partner Parker? There is the old guard of Gerrard, Lampard, Barry and Carrick. But, unfortunately, none of them is as technically gifted as Wilshere. Gerrard and Lampard can bring you goals but they can neither retain possession nor can dictate the pace of the game. Barry and Carrick lack adventure. They can play simple passes and also protect the back four but they have struggled in the past whenever they faced quality midfield. The images of Barry against Germany in 2010 and Carrick against Barcelona in 2011 highlight their limitations.
The versatility of Jones and Milner is an asset for their country but they are preferred in more defensive and wider positions respectively. Jordan Henderson still seems to be in the learning phase. While Huddlestone and Rodwell have already been ruled out, Cleverley, who has missed a large part of the season due to fitness issues, is yet to play his first game for England.
But there is an Englishman who could be the messiah for the Three Lions in this hour of crisis. He revitalized a struggling Manchester United midfield and was pivotal in flipping Manchester United’s season around following their early season hiccups. He is, of course, the evergreen Paul Scholes.
Scholes, following his shock return to football in January, brought creativity, composure and experience in the United midfield. He forged a strong partnership with Michael Carrick and that partnership was instrumental in the toppling City from the top spot.
Paul Scholes’s extraordinary ball control, accurate long balls, short quick passes and audacious flicks remind us why football is called the beautiful game. When someone like Xavi describes him as the best midfielder in the last 20 years, it tells you a lot.
But will he really end his international exile and make a shock return for his country provided he gets an offer?
Perhaps, yes. Scholes had earlier revealed that he regrets rejecting Capello’s offer to join the national team in South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And if he gets an offer this time round, he might decide to have one last shot at a major international tournament.
Signs are also good for that to happen. Harry Redknapp, who still remains the favourite to be the next English manager despite Spurs’ poor form at the back end of the season, once revealed that he would love to have Scholes in his team.
Scholes can take inspiration from France legend Zinedine Zidane who famously came out of retirement to help France qualify for the 2006 World Cup and also led his nation to the final.
However, it would be senseless to predict with certainty that Scholes will produce the same impact in the England team that he did to Manchester United this season.
England’s situation is far worse than that of United. While United has a strong squad and the able guidance of a visionary like Alex Ferguson and, England lacks direction and game-plan in the absence of a full-time manager and key players.
England winning the Euro will be nothing short of a miracle considering the resources of the likes of Spain and Germany. The dark cloud surrounding the former world champions is likely to end in acid rain that would destroy the nation’s hopes yet again but Paul Scholes could be the silver lining for them in this hour of adversity.