By Woolwich Brooks
Jack Wilshere has positioned himself as a leader in the Arsenal dressing room this season.
Along with Szczesney, he makes up a group of our youngest players demonstrating a collective leadership that should be invaluable in the coming years; particularly if Project Youth continues without the addition of more experienced players already used to leading a team themselves.
This remarkable enthusiasm for the game, along with his unquestionable player ethic, makes his promise that he would never turn down his country far from surprising.
People suggest that this is reason and proof enough for him to be allowed to play in this summer’s European under-21 tournament. There have been complaints about Arsene Wenger's protests about the enormous number of games without rest this would demand of Jack, but that's massively short-sighted.
In fact, the only thing these traits that show such a great player ethic in Jack prove is that he is lacking in maturity and experience.
The fact is that what makes Jack such an inspiration for the players around him is precisely what necessitates his guidance by a wise, foresighted manager. Something the under-21 England boss, Stuart Pearce, by indiscriminately choosing Jack for his provisional national squad, doesn’t appear to be.
@Bradley08 detailed on Twitter yesterday the decreasing number of games Cesc has started over the past five or so seasons for Arsenal. Now, the cases between Jack and Cesc are clearly different, but considering the very young age at which Cesc was made such a fundamental part of our first team, the concern clearly still stands.
In order to best protect the interests of our young players in the long-term, too much can not be demanded of them and appropriate rest must be given.
This isn't just a selfish, purely Arsenal-interested viewpoint, though. To disregard Arsene’s concerns outright would not just be to the detriment of Arsenal and Jack, but also to the England team itself in the long-term.
The under-21 squad should be purely for development of players not yet ready for the first team. In keeping Jack eligible for inclusion in a junior tournament, despite having become a part of the senior first team, all that is accomplished is the denying of a valuable opportunity for the next Jack Wilshere to make his first mark on the international scene.
In picking Jack for his squad, Pearce undermines the suggestion that the junior teams are about player development and clearly shows him as a manager pursuing personal victory over any other, and far more important, concerns. Let's be honest, his record isn't that great as a manager anyway.
Managing players and being a player are totally different arts. Jack is a player and it is his job to want to play every second is physically able to.
Great players, meanwhile, need great managers to temper that desire to play so that they don’t do themselves damage over the long term.
Wenger has seen how Cesc has struggled this season and how Theo Walcott was over-used and ended up under-performing to such a degree that he was excluded from the 2012 World Cup squad, which was as much as a shock as being included in 2006.
Look at Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen for those who think this is just about protecting Arsenal's interests (which it is to a certain degree). Continual injury problems caused by over-playing when young.
Stuart Pearce’s inability to see past his desire to pick the best players available to him shows how short-sighted his managerial perspective really is. He is ignoring the lessons of the past.
The fear remains that this ignorance will result in long-term difficulties for both Jack Wilshere and other promising young players who are not being given proper guidance.
And with Jack becoming such a vital cog in the Arsenal engine, Wenger must lobby hard to ensure Jack isn't put in the position where he has to choose.
That decision should be made by Pearce or even by Fabio Capello. Is it too much to wish fro common sense to prevail?