Once regarded by Arsenal fans as the best thing since going a whole season unbeaten, the club’s idealised ‘British core’ are crumbling to their knees.
But the group’s biggest casualty might be enacting a revival outside of London, with the intention of later bringing a life-sized souvenir back to the club he grew up at.
In a skewed reality, Jack Wilshere’s arrival at AFC Bournemouth as a footballer is pure masquerade.
Surpassing matters on the pitch, the midfielder’s landing on the south coast carries an ulterior motive – to ensure manager Eddie Howe is screened properly as part of the post-Arsene Wenger vetting process.
For all we know, Wilshere could return to North London in nine months to find his French mentor no longer with the club, which isn’t altogether implausible. So Howe about an Englishman takes the reins?
Having first begun with Theo Walcott’s arrival in 2006, a renaissance among British talent within the Arsenal ranks became a staple theme at the London club some time ago.
Once Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined in 2011 to consolidate a ‘British core’ mainly comprised by midfielders, purists of the North London club suddenly felt a closer affinity to the English (and Welsh) players within the squad, despite that none of them were strictly local.
Seen as a window into the future, the group have since witnessed their generation unravel itself, for better or worse.
Whether it’s plainly cynical or patently obvious, to think that Aaron Ramsey’s steady rise is contrasted by Jack Wilshere’s whimpering decline, we’re provoked into a notion of where it all went wrong, with Carl Jenkinson’s estrangement finding a parallel in Walcott’s failed conversion as a striker, not neglecting Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury-hampered patchiness.
Kieran Gibbs, meanwhile, finds himself too far from the radar, while a once erratic Aaron Ramsey is not altogether exempt despite his present reputation among yeasayers as one of the best midfielders on the planet.
Whether or not you’re like Jamie Carragher and believe Arsenal’s Anglo-Cymraeg cast are better served elsewhere, most of us will agree that Spurs’ English contingent are better.
And for those Gooners who saw Wilshere as a hybrid of Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, and Oxlade-Chamberlain as a flank-oriented Geoff Hurst, discovering Arsenal’s finest young stars on the fringes of the national team in 2016 is hugely deflating.
Indeed we arrive at a post-mortem only four years on from Euro 2012, where a precocious Oxlade-Chamberlain was taking on all comers at his first major tournament having laid assists to Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry the season before.
Some interesting comments have emerged this past week concerning Jack Wilshere’s second chance at Bournemouth, and indeed the England setup as a whole.
Paul Scholes remains sceptical around Wilshere’s move to the Cherries, seeing the club as too ‘low’ a side in what appears as a dismissal of Eddie Howe’s credentials.
Former England under 21 boss Stuart Pearce, meanwhile, criticised the national team’s hurriedness in fielding future superstars, pointing to Ross Barkley’s omission from Sam Allardyce’s first England squad with a more compelling argument than Scholes’.
Pearce suggests that Barkley should have served each of England’s youth teams more faithfully, striving for under 20 and 21 tournament glory before expecting a senior call up.
Utilising Andrea Pirlo’s example as a player who matured gradually across the Italian youth setup before winning the World Cup in 2006, Pearce believes the much-hyped English cast should wait their turn.
If Wilshere wasn’t rushed into the senior squad initially, he most certainly was for Euro 2016, and few were surprised at his recent shortcomings – including Wenger.
Not exempt from a relegation fight this time around, it’s too soon to know how Bournemouth will fare across a sophomore term, with second season syndrome a tag thrown around too liberally and surely unwarranted in their case.
A lot will depend on whether Eddie Howe pushes on to fulfil his much talked about managerial promise this season, both in rearing a stubborn back four to mitigate the loss of Tommy Elphick, and through bridging concord across three generations of forsaken English talent in Junior Stanislas, Wilshere and Jordon Ibe respectively.
Further, probing Howe’s strengths and shortcomings makes for a curious case study.
Wiping the floor in 2014/15 across a Championship winning campaign, the 38-year-old’s Bournemouth side fell upon sterner times last season and grew to bemoan Callum Wilson’s untimely injury this time last year.
But there’s evidence enough to suggest the young manager is capable of consolidating again this season, while even pushing for a European place if you see Wilshere as the prototype of Howe’s vision, and take his acquisition as a catalyst in the manager’s crowning of a fledgling philosophy.
Like that which Highbury served up every other week some fifteen years ago, we could now see the Premier League’s smallest venue become synonymous with fluent passing football, if it was missing for a lot of last season.
As postulated earlier, the prospect of Eddie Howe becoming Arsenal manager once Wenger leaves isn’t altogether out of the question, even if he proves a belated but popular arrival as heir to a household name, like Jose Mourinho was to Sir Alex Ferguson after David Moyes and Louis van Gaal took the brunt of the pressure.
Regardless of whether he arrives as the first, second or third successor, Howe would readily embrace the charismatic passing style synonymous with the modern Arsenal.
If you believe certain players perform better under a fellow countryman (think Erik Lamela and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs), then an arm-round-the-shoulder manager in Eddie Howe would doubtless inspire the disillusioned within Arsenal’s playing ranks, particularly the Brits among them.