Arsène Wenger will respect Arsenal Midfielder Jack Wilshere's decision to play this summer for the England U-21s in their European Championship tournament, according to the official site:
"I have heard that he has been picked," said Wenger. "We have to accept and respect the choice even if I think it is the wrong decision. Jack Wilshere has been in the red for a while now and this can be a risk for his health.
From the perspective of an Arsenal supporter, this is a worrying eventuality. It is precisely Wilshere's desire to play and play hard, a quality that serves the club so well, that also makes him want to play for England in the same way. But is this a good thing? In the contemporary game, should there be more restriction on how much a player can play in his own interest, or is that far too draconian?
Ultimately, of course, the decision lies with Wilshere. It's his life. If England picks him for the senior or U21 sides, he will go, because he loves playing, and loves England. But one just hopes that it won't hurt his long-term health in any way, especially from an Arsenal perspective.
It is frustrating from that perspective that he can play for both the senior and U21 squads at this point. In my opinion, it's just far too many games without rest for any player. I had floated the idea of a rule preventing selection for the U21s after winning a senior cap with fellow SBN writer Graham MacAree of We Ain't Got No History, and in the ensuing discussion, a number of points were raised:
- It restricts the player's freedom (but many other FIFA and FA rules do as well, in numerous ways).
- The aim of the England U21 setup seems to be, rightly or wrongly, to win, not to look out for players' best interests or develop a squad for the senior setup.
- Wenger used Wilshere to his maximum this season (he played more than any player other than Laurent Koscielny).
- Even if that was not prudent, the club does pay his wages, and he was excellent for the team this year.
- It would be nice if all parties could work out a pragmatic solution so as to avoid placing short-term victory before long-term success.
- Stuart Pearce, U21 manager, would be rightly pissed off at not having one of his best players available to him, were there some kind of rule in place.
- Fabio Capello, on the other hand, might like knowing that one of his promising midfielders going forward won't be exhausted.
- Any rule restricting players' ability to play might be draconian, but laws and rules generally are in place to protect people, sometimes from themselves. But it might be draconian.
Whatever the ins and outs of the discussion, it is frustrating from an Arsenal perspective to know that one of the club's best players may be so tired after playing essentially 55 or so matches in 12 months without a break might mean that he won't be ready until late September or so. The supporters have been down this road before with Cesc Fabregas, who started late this year and never looked quite at his flying best.
What do you think? Should there be some kind of rule in place to prevent overuse of players between the senior and U21 setups? Are you angry about all this, or is it just part of the game?