Great teams make great players
'Jack is a great player but he will only be great if the team is great,' Arsene claimed in welcoming Wilshere's return to fitness.
At the same time the newsfeeds report that Jose Antonio Reyes is struggling to find a place in the Sevilla team he rejoined at the beginning of the year following a career that has drifted since leaving Arsenal despite winning La Liga as a squad player with Real Madrid.
Reyes joined Arsenal as a relatively big money signing from a successful Sevilla side and helped a great Arsenal side to the title in the unbeaten season. He started in a blaze of glory knocking Chelsea out of the FAC and looked as though he would go on to prove to be a great player until he was kicked out of the game at Old Trafford as our record breaking unbeaten run came to an end. He'd joined a great team and was talented enough to be a great player but he'd joined a team whose powers were on the wane with an indifferent season in 2005 despite winning the FAC, and one which found the following season even harder going despite making the CL final.
Arsenal have had a number of great players since our greatest title winning achievement. We've acquired a number of players many of whom individually, fit and at their peak, like Rosicky, Gallas, Cesc, Nasri, RvP, Sagna, Arteta, Cazorla and maybe others wouldn't have been out of place in the 2004 side.
Others have had greatness thrust upon them. Adebayor became a £24m player on the basis of a good goal tally in an ultimately unsuccessful 2007/2008 title tilt just as Kolo Toure, aided by a key role as an invincible, became a world class centre back, and maybe more controversially fellow invincible Ljungberg a much admired midfielder as a result of the success the team they played for enjoyed. Thierry became a great player only when he joined Arsenal and a successful squad player in a great team when he left.
A great team can make greats of its players if it achieves success. It's generally accepted, by Arsenal fans at least, that Lehmann was a great keeper but how hard is it to imagine that if Almunia for example had been between the sticks in 2004 that he would have been seen as a great too? That will be hard to swallow and provoke much scorn given the Spaniards travails in an unsuccessful Arsenal side at time when frustration with the lack of success was most vociferous. The more popular claim would be that he would have let in more goals. I'm not sure that's true and while it is impossible to prove or disprove such idle speculation my point is that great teams do make great players - or more accurately perhaps makes players great. It's partly a matter of perception but also the boost that self belief and confidence gives a player's inherent talent as the result of success and consequent acclamation.
Whether Jack Wilshere will be a great player depends much on his ability and determination but he'll be seen as a greater player if he wins something as a key component of a successful team.
Great teams always make players great and sometimes great players make great teams but only success makes greats of everyone.