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Walcott, Wilshire or Wright? On the surface this is an easy question, the answer is Wright, right? But today I will take a look at 2 players who almost became Arsenal legends and one who did. Jack Wilshire, Theo Walcott and Ian Wright and show up some surprises along the way, I hope. Wrightly so - A true legend I reckon most of you are saying there is no comparison. In the list of 50 top players voted by Arsenal fans, Wright was number 4, and Walcott and Wilshire are nowhere to be found. https://www.arsenal.com/history/gunners-greatest-50-players All suffered bad luck Strangely enough, though, one area where they correlate is bad luck. Injuries curtailed and derailed Wiltshire and Walcott’s careers and Wright’s difficult upbringing, his inability to attract a top team when young, and strikers considered better than him for England, all conspired to make his career a long battle. Walcott - exciting at his best Both Walcott and Wilshire had better achievements for England. They had more caps, Walcott 47 and Wilshire 34 to Wright’s 33. Wright never made it to a major championship, the others did. Wright rarely played competitive matches, the others did. Both played underage international football, Wright didn’t. Wright, even at his best, was the backup for England. Even after their injuries, England managers were trying to put Wilshire and Walcott back in. 2 wunderkids For Arsenal, Walcott and Wilshire were among the youngest players to make competitive debuts, Wright didn’t get there until he was almost 27. They were hailed as wunderkids, Wright was unknown as a teenager. Walcott still managed far more games for Arsenal than Wright, 397 to 288. Wilshire a respectable 197. Could Wilshire have been as good as Vieira? The one big difference, of course, between the legend and the nearly men, was injuries. We can all accept that both Wilshire and Walcott would have been Arsenal and England superstars without the injuries. They were truly superb, playing in big matches for the 2 sides and receiving huge acclaim. Walcott would surely have scored lots more goals and maybe even secured that striker role he so wanted. At 33, he could have surpassed Henry and still firing more in for Arsenal and England right now. Wilshire could have become the midfield maestro, dominating teams to this day while being accepted as a great in the Vieira mould. Both could be challenging Henry and Bergkamp for that top two position in the Arsenal great list. At their best they were supreme If you have watched these two at their best and most of you reading have, you know I am not talking nonsense. Injuries diminished their power, whether mentally or physically, or both, I am not sure. And so they are nearly men. It must be tragic for them to know that they were doing everything right, their careers progressing in an amazing way at a young age, making the step up to the big teams and having a huge impact, and then it all goes wrong through something they hadn’t got control of. Injuries can be the cruellest event in a footballer’s life. In fairness to both, they never stopped trying, and nor did Ian Wright. Poor Ian never got a real chance at England If Wilshire and Walcott’s hardest battles were with injuries, Wright’s were with life and football itself. He had to constantly pick himself off the floor to get his life back on track, from having a young baby as a teenager, to going to prison, to not making it at football trials, to being a black footballer when all they received was horrendous abuse, to being overlooked for England when he desperately wanted a real chance, to be used when it mattered. Yin and yang But perhaps his biggest piece of good fortune came, as in life it often does, in a mixture of good and bad luck. Bruce Rioch was appointed after George Graham’s meltdown with the bung scandal. He didn’t seem to like Wright and the feeling soon became mutual. He banished him to the wing and often didn’t play him. Now despite the perception that Rioch was a disaster, he actually improved Arsenal from 12th to 5th. In normal circumstances, he would never have been fired. But himself and David Dein (maybe deliberately so) didn’t get on, Arsene Wenger had already been lined up, and of course, David Dein was a big fan of Ian Wright. Arsene Wenger came in, Wright was restored, his career and trophies came back on track, and he even got 8 caps in 1997 and 4 goals, but again mostly in friendlies. 47 is a lot of caps for an injury prone footballer If Rioch hadn’t been fired, I reckon he would have sold Wright that summer of 1996. He was almost 31, and other than Man Utd, all teams were downward for him. He would not have become quite the Arsenal legend, finished anywhere near 4th in our all time list and, like Walcott and Wilshire, maybe not even make an appearance there at all. And that could so easily have happened. So the bad luck at having Bruce Rioch brought in was followed immediately by Wenger, and the extraordinary improvements he made to the careers of the old pros he inherited. Wenger was so important to all three Wenger was crucial to the careers of Walcott and Wilshire. Walcott was bought in at 16 for big money for such a young player but had to spend some time in the academy, being helped along by Liam Brady and Wenger. The same with Wilshire, who was already in the academy. He gave both their chance very young and they were teenage prodigies. Their career could have been stratospheric if they had just normal injuries to contend with. They still managed good careers, lots of England caps, crucial Champions league matches and playing at the very top of football. Ian Wright must look at such players breaking through as kids and say, I had to do everything in football the hard way, they had their career mapped out for them, given help at every step, I just had to never give up on my dream or I would never have made it. Fight till you die Credit must be given to Walcott and Wilshire though, because they never gave up, Walcott is still playing, and if someone offered Wilshire a chance, he would probably take it, as he has that never say die spirit. Coaching the Arsenal kids is a great job for him, as he can see every scenario in front of them, from rejection to huge acclaim, and he knows that the most important thing, is, like Ian Wright, belief in your ability. You must never give up. Could Wilshire somehow conjure one last comeback for Arsenal? Ian Wright overcome his mental struggles. For Walcott and Wilshire, maybe it was the injuries themselves that took the edge off their football abilities. I don’t believe it was their attitude. They have never stopped believing in themselves. I would love to see them have a last fling at the top with Arsenal. Possible? I doubt it, but in football you never know. Wilshire is there and seemingly in training he is amazing still. An injury crisis to midfielders and strikers, Wilshire gets thrown in, Walcott is brought back on loan, they fire Arsenal to the top and the fairytale is complete. For me, I would be nearly as happy as they would be. Ian Wright, Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott have brought me many ecstatic days. All will feel that they could have achieved more. Wright, if Arsenal had come when he was a teenager and England had seen his potential, and Walcott and Wilshire had not had their cruel injuries. But let’s celebrate 3 heroes of the Arsenal – the three W’s. They deserve a statue for their sheer grit and belief in themselves.
The BFG’s tower above us They like winning trophies Last time I spoke about the hapless Spuds and how our biggest rivals are not really rivals at all. They only manage to be better than us when we are poor. So I never felt the hate that some supporters on both sides feel. Some teams and managers did get under my skin, though. And today the rivalry that I will talk about is a team that have got under my skin. I came to hate the sight of them whenever we drew them because they always seemed to win. This rivalry all but the younger fans among you will be well aware of. The BF Germans, our nightmare – Bayern Munich. The thing is, in these blogs, I am not trying to depress you, and so, when I write about a bad season, I try to find the positives, the good things that happened. And I will try to do so here. It’s not going to be easy. You see, regular readers know that my biggest dream is the Champions League, and these BF’s destroyed the dream season after season, often giving us a football lesson as well. But I could have taken the easy way and only write about English teams because, no matter who I choose in this series, if they are English, I can find plenty of good things. But the BF’s? They haven’t given us much. They are destroyers of dreams, wreckers of worlds, and, as they only appeared on the scene lateish in my life, maybe ensured I will never see my dream fulfilled. We are not even getting into the Champions league lately. Bayern Munich? We can beat them. Strangely, the earliest competitive match I can find is the Champions League of 2000 and we haven’t played them in any other competition. Of course, if you were to throw a dart at the Bundesliga winners of any season, you would most likely hit Bayern Munich. 31 championships, well ahead of any English club, and us. Kanu got the winner or did he? But back in those 2000 days, I was starting to feel more positive about our European ambitions. For the first time, we waltzed through the first group stage and got Bayern, Lyon and Spartak Moscow in the second one. We nearly did great in our first match at Highbury, Henry got an early goal and then Kanu got the second on 55. Except Bayern did what they always seem to do to us, they scored and seemed to crush our self-belief on 56 minutes. Ten minutes later and they scored again for the final score. We had a top side out, except for Manninger in goal and Kanu in place of Bergkamp so we had no excuses for quality. Adams, Keown, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Llungberg, Cole, etc., were all there. They beat us 1-0 at home and topped the group. We came second and qualified. The truth is, Bayern are one of the legendary teams in Europe, and had to be the target to aspire to. They were who I wanted Arsenal to be, imperious in putting teams to the sword. Feared from the moment you are drawn against them. In every direction they are better So, in fairness, we can not claim to be their equals. There are only 2 metrics I can find where we are their equal. 1 UEFA Cup and 1 European Cup-winners Cup. But then, they normally play Champions League. Even the German Cup they have won 20 times. Champions league 6 times. Don’t go looking, Arsenal fans, you will only get depressed. You shouldn't have taught Arsenal how to gift goals, Kolo The next time was 2005. We were getting better in Europe, qualifying for the knockout stages regularly. My heart sank a little when we drew them but we had such good players I figured if we played to our best, we could beat them and others like them. I felt head to head, our players were better than theirs. We were not long past being Invincibles. But in the first few minutes Toure did something that we have become familiar with at Arsenal since then. Our biggest problem, in fact. He gifted the BF’s a goal. They scored 2 more to leave us clutching at straws. Toure gave us that straw on 88 minutes to give us an away goal. We won 1-0 at Highbury but that, our first win against them, was rendered meaningless as we went out. A nightmare rolled up in Armageddon The next time was the start of a sickening sequence of results. 2013, the knockout stages and at the Emirates they taught us a lesson 3-1 after being 2-0 up after 21 minutes. Amazingly we beat them 2-0 in Munich to record our second meaningless win. Arsene Wenger complained about the away goals rule after the match but to no avail. Next year we got them again in the first group stage, and another lesson at the Emirates 2-0. Ok a draw in Munich 1-1 but they go through, we just look on bewildered. The Pep knocked out of us Next year again, but this time group stage. Pep Guardiola was their manager. 2 late goals gave us what looked like a meaningful win 2-0. Ah, Arsenal, you are having a laugh. 5-1 in Munich and we looked like amateurs and bye bye. Send us home crying? Screaming more like. Who are these BF’s? Guardiola taught us a lesson Our biggest nightmare, that is who. 2017 we get them again, first knockout stage. Carlo Ancelotti had replaced Guardiola but not the score. 5-1 in Munich and it was dreadful to watch. A pub team against the masters. The tie was over but I felt at the Emirates we could salvage some pride. Theo Walcott scored on 20 and we were 1-0 at half time. No real chance of winning the tie but I was hoping for a respectable score. Eh, hello, we went back to being an amateur team, they threw the ball into the net 5 more times for three 5-1’s in a row. And so did Ancelotti twice We were supposed to be Arsenal, not a Sunday kickabout team. There was only one way to watch these final 3 games against our BFG rivals, with your hands over your eyes. Arsene Wenger was our manager for all these matches here. I can only imagine the pain he feels when he hears the name Bayern Munich. Destroyed and made fun of And so, what does it mean? I’ll tell you what it means. The BF’s are laughing at us. They are laughing at me if they read this blog. For me pretending that we are rivals. Arsenal the bums, is what they think. I doubt if we have been beaten so easily 3 times in a row ever. And they don’t care that my biggest dream is winning the Champions League, and they don’t care that I am getting older like my dream. Close to the end, Arsene But surely we are Arsenal? Surely we can come back? Howabout these Arteta youngsters standing up to these BF’s at their own stadium in a Champions league final and sending them home screaming and crying with a 5-1 victory? That is one way I can say there is a metric that says we are better. C’mon the Arse!