Super Jack Wilshere has re-emerged this season as a first team regular and of late has done well in a 3-man centre midfield. Can he yet progress into the midfield maestro he so promised to be when he broke onto the scene all those years ago?
Alongside Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, Wilshere has grown into a more dynamic yet responsible, game-controlling midfielder, and as a result has earnt a well-deserved England recall. The structure of the Arsenal midfield now though has meant a slightly less involved Wilshere because of the three but in looking at Jack’s season so far, many do still label passion and desire as paramount to his game, something we first discovered nearly ten years ago. These, in my opinion, are and will always be key components to his footballing makeup.
Over the last two seasons or so, Arsenal (and England) have been lacking a deep-lying driving force, a playmaker who breathes passing football, the embodiment of creativity, a tiki-taka man who demands the ball and wants to dictate. The more Jack plays, the more he embraces his natural game, being the linchpin of almost every forward move…but as a man still searching for his best in phase two of his career, many still question his fragility and ability to string together game after game, week after week.
Being exactly the same age as Wilshere myself, I remember being a 16 year old kid watching him light up the Arsenal preseason tour of 2008 and watched him become Arsenal’s youngest ever league debutant (eclipsing Cesc Fabregas) at the age of 16 years and 256 days. He ripped up the Reserve League (now U23 Professional Development League) many a time at Barnet’s Underhill Stadium before progressing into a first team regular. 2010 bought a mid-end season loan to Bolton Wanders where he impressed and developed his game. Ten years on he has not yet lived up to his full potential but could this at last be the season?
With a World Cup place up for grabs, a fit and firing Jack Wilshere is without doubt the best technical footballer England has available (whether he is the best player in general – that’s a debate for another day). Alongside Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, (if fit) the two should form part of England’s 3-man midfield with either Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson in the holding role. Imagine Wilshere and Lallana feeding the likes of Kane, Sterling, Alli and alike as deep-lying playmakers. England have been screaming for someone of Jack’s nature for a while now (having been without Lallana for long periods as well) and in facing bigger and better teams at International tournaments, need a man (or two) capable of unlocking the world’s best defensive units. The upcoming Italy friendly should put this to the test. So what does he need to do now to ensure he makes the England WC squad?
He needs to impress against The Netherlands and Italy, without doubt. Beyond that, he needs to continue to play and play well in the Arsenal squad, controlling games and managing situations. The 3-man partnership with Xhaka and Ramsey has shown that although no-one of these is an out-and-out CDM, the job is getting done by a combination of two or all three. Jack needs to set the tone and free up the likes of Ozil and Mkhitaryan to create that final ball or that final assist for Aubameyang, Lacazette and Welbeck. So far, Wilshere has accumulated 31 appearances (17 Premier League, 9 Europa League, 5 League Cup), scoring 2 goals and providing 3 assists. Most important for him though is the number of appearances, and of these how many he has played in a row, in a week, in a month. All are vitally important for him and his confidence first and foremost but also for Wenger and Southgate. The more Super Jack plays, the fitter he gets, the better he gets. Get the best out of Jack Wilshere and club and country will be better for it.
So what does he need to succeed? Arsenal somewhat addressed club-level issues in January by sourcing an out-and-out goal machine in Aubameyang, and by ditching Sanchez and recruiting Mkhitaryan, vastly improved team harmony. However, because of these personnel changes, the team has actually altered slightly to better suit Wilshere and a 3-man midfield. Although Ozil is out of position, in the big games this a must. Wilshere needs Rambo’s late forward runs and Xhaka’s ranging passes in order to produce his best; deep-starting dribbles, short one-twos and slide-rule passes; the three complement each other so well. For the rest of this season Arsenal look to be on-point to give Wilshere what he needs. Come the summer, give him that new deal and make him club captain, he is Arsenal through and through, is a great ambassador for the club and he’s a perfect piece to build around.
In brief, England need to create the perfect midfield recipe for him to thrive. As previously mentioned, this should be a three with Wilshere and Lallana centred by Dier or Henderson. This is as close to Ramsey and Xhaka as England can get with this current crop. And although Arsenal’s season has derailed massively, this should by no means be a blueprint for England to follow but the national setup needs to get the best of Wilshere in order to really succeed, he is a vital cog in the midfield machine that will carry England forward. Set up to give the best, most creative and dynamic players all they need to deliver.
Over to you Super Jack.