Disaster if we win nothing - Wilshere
Arsenal fans craving hope for the future need only listen to the words of Jack Wilshere, their tough, skilful midfielder. Wilshere not only plays a good game, he talks one too. The teenager looks and sounds like a future Arsenal captain, a leader.
The English Professional Footballers Association's Young Player of the Year passionately defends Arsene Wenger and the squad, stressing how close Arsenal were to success this season, but acknowledges they need to toughen up, becoming a bit more streetwise.
Sitting in an elegant hotel near London Colney, sipping coffee, Wilshere, just 19, voices his desire to get his hands on a trophy. "Arsenal's a big club and we need to be winning trophies and we need to win them to keep our big players, sooner rather than later,'' he said. "A 100pc it will be a disaster if we don't win a trophy next season. We know that. The fans feel it. We feel it. We just need to win a trophy."
Arsenal need a touch more steel, a few more authority figures to guide them through the stormy times. "We do miss a couple of shouters, but there are definitely some shouters in the dressing-room,'' said Wilshere.
"There have been times at half-time when there have been arguments and we've come back out and won. We do miss a player like Patrick Vieira. But there are leaders at Arsenal, the experienced players like Robin (van Persie).
"Thomas Vermaelen is back -- that's great. We've got Van Persie, Vermaelen, Cesc (Fabregas). We probably need a few more big leaders to help us out.
"People say Cesc doesn't look like a captain, but he's been great for me this season. I hear people say he's not a good leader, but I think he's a good leader. On the pitch he is always helping me. Off the pitch he has become a good friend."
He hopes the Catalan stays to lead Arsenal next season. "He's been over in England eight years, but Barcelona is his home. It's hard for him so I can understand where he's coming from. But he's the Arsenal captain and he's been great this season and we hope he can be great next season.
"In some of our games he has been our best player by a mile, and we need to keep our best players if we want to win things. He likes Arsenal, and I'm sure he wants to be at Arsenal. If they can reach an agreement then I'm sure he'll want to stay. He needs to stay."
Arsenal will invest in some new recruits this summer, a period when the squad will take stock of how they deal with adversity, an issue this season.
"When things were going well, we were good at that -- all together. When it went wrong maybe our heads went a bit and we never got it back. There will be a lot of things going on in the summer to see where it wrong."
Wilshere believes Arsenal need to become "more aware and more aggressive on the pitch''. Always mindful of showing respect to referees, Wilshere wants the players to get their point over to officials if they feel aggrieved.
"Not so much keep going on at the ref, but just let them know,'' he explains. "You see the players at Man United and they are round the ref."
As he reflects on the season, Wilshere can take pride in his own performances, and frustration at how the team fell away. "If nobody watched Arsenal play and saw they finished fourth with no trophies, then everyone would say it's a bad season. But look at some of the games -- you don't beat Barcelona every week. So we can take some positives. We were so close against Birmingham to winning a trophy (the Carling Cup) and then we lost in the last minute."
He was unimpressed by Barry Ferguson for ruffling Laurent Koscielny's hair after the French defender's excruciating mix-up with Wojciech Szczesny.
"That's the last thing you want because (of what) Koscielny must have felt like. I thought it was a bit unprofessional to ruffle his hair up. It was the worst way to lose and since then it just seems to have gone wrong.
"We just need that one trophy and it's going to change. We said before the Birmingham game that this could change our season if we win it and if we lose it. It changed it for us. We lost it and we went out the Champions League and it went downhill from there.''
Wilshere has strong support for Wenger. "The manager stuck with me and hopefully I've repaid him. Because he's a good manager he wants to protect his players. But we have to take responsibility. We need to stay in the top four and push on for a trophy.''
His thoughts now turn to international matters. Today he trains with the England squad in preparation to face Switzerland on Saturday. Wilshere hopes England manager Fabio Capello uses the system that worked so well against Wales. "My perfect formation would be 4-3-3 with one holding and then the two going forward. I would be one of the ones going forward -- like we played with England against Wales with Scotty Parker holding and me and Frank Lampard."
He has great hope for England's future. "Definitely there are players. Josh McEachran is a great player. Theo Walcott's maturing really well. People were saying he didn't really find the final ball but this year he has been brilliant for us.
"There's Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson, younger players like John Bostock who haven't really had their chance yet. In the England team, there's Ashley Young, Theo, Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson, me. There are a lot of good young English players coming through, maybe a bit like the Spanish players.
"Obviously I look at the Spanish and want to play like them because they're the best in the world and won the World Cup. That style of football is the way I like to play.
"There are English players like Joe Cole and Ashley Young who can play that way."
Wilshere certainly can. (© Daily Telegraph, London)