Written by George McNeil: All the plaudits for Arsenal following the enthralling first-leg victory over Barcelona were, deservedly aimed towards 19 year old Englishman Jack Wilshere. Pundits and fans alike eulogised about the potential of the youngster ahead of the European Championships in 2012. Special praise was reserved to his manager Arsene Wenger who gushed:
“He was outstanding tonight. Jack (Wilshere) wasn’t fazed by the occasion. In the difficult periods when we were under pressure he took the ball and kept the ball. He played really well.”
High praise indeed, against the best side in the world, and all this from a player who just 12 months before that emphatic display was under the tutelage of Owen Coyle whilst on loan at Bolton Wanderers. The 6 months spent at the Reebok Stadium allowed Wilshere to gain the experience and maturity to progress to the Arsenal first team this season. Another player, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who put in an assured display against the Catalan giants, was plying his trade at League One Brentford at the same time Wilshere was at Bolton. Their rapid progressions have been aided by first team football on loan, so here we will examine whether other Arsenal players on loan can make similar impacts.
We start with Kyle Bartley, a widely admired young English centre back who joined Arsenal from Bolton Wanderers in 2007. He was part of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 2009 alongside Jack Wilshere and is highly rated by the staff at the Emirates. Bartley has had successful loan spells at Sheffield United and is currently at Rangers in the SPL. Bartley is an imposing defender, and has gained rave reviews from those who have witnessed his performances in Scotland. He recently scored the winner from a header against St. Mirren and was named Man of the Match. It would be hard to argue that Bartley’s loan hasn’t given him the experience to become an Arsenal first team player.