“He has good ability, works really hard for the team and has that little bit of aggression which he wants to win. That all comes out in his game. But I look at him and think what kind of player does Jack want to be? Is he going to be an offensive player? If he is, he needs to score more goals. “If he is going to be defensive, he has to work that little bit harder on the defensive side of his game.”
Bryan Robson has a point.
Jack Wilshere’s development in the past few years has been quite extraordinary. He has managed to transform himself from a neat sturdy holding midfielder into a player who utilizes his extraordinary dribbling abilities with powerful short bursts of pace. 18-year old Jack famously neutralized Barcelona’s trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets back in 2010 at the Emirates when Arsenal beat Barcelona 2 – 1; and since that day he has been heralded as the future of England and Arsenal, compared to the likes of Patrick Vieira and Bryan Robson. Yet despite differences in physical mould, they all possess something in common: an attacking and defensive game – the attributes of a complete midfielder.
But as you know, being an all-round player rarely suffices in the modern game where positions across the field are so specific. The days of a midfield and striking partners are long gone as each role requires distinguishing characteristics and abilities – Jack Wilshere is no exception to that. Wilshere was once described by Arsene Wenger as having “Spanish technique but an English heart”; it is true that he possesses Spanish-esque vision and dribbling abilities that far exceed your average Premier League midfielder, while at the same time possessing a raw, tenacious ‘English’ drive about him. Yet Wilshere’s play is heavily reliant on one thing – dribbling.
Wilshere’s season average of 2.4 dribbles a game is an extraordinary feat – even more so considering his age and position on the pitch. Yet his dribbling abilities reap no end product, it almost appears as if Jack does not know when to pass or when to dribble, preferring to keep the ball for unnecessary amounts of time. In fact the freedom in which he plays with unknowingly disrupts Arsenal’s fluid system – It’s no wonder Arsenal have performed so vigilantly during the business end of the season when Jack was absent.
Wilshere was not present during Arsenal’s miraculous victory over European Champions Bayern Munich, nor their 3 successive victorys against Premier League clubs Swansea, Reading and West Brom – 2 of which were away at tough grounds where stand-in Tomas Rosicky played a star role. When Jack was finally fit he was brought into the team against Norwich where he struggled heavily and most interestingly Arsenal scored 3 times to win the game upon his substitution. Consider the Everton and Fulham games too. Arsenal took grasp of the Everton game upon Wilshere’s 68’ minute substitution and were pinned back nearly conceding an equalizer upon his 71’ minute introduction at Craven Cottage. It is increasingly clear that Arsenal cannot operate in their disjointed 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation to their full potential while Jack Wilshere is a regular.
There is also cause for concern when he plays deeper in midfield. His defensive game does not warrant him a place there, yet he is often deployed as one of the 2 deeper midfielders since Arsenal possess none after the sale of Alexandre Song to Barcelona. His tackling is rash and statistically poor while he fails to protect the back four, often wandering off forward. Interestingly however is that 4 of his 6 assists this season came when he was deployed further deep in midfield. Pushing him forward is not the seemingly-obvious answer to this problem. It is just too risky to play Wilshere as sole number 10 – his goals and assist tally are quite frankly pathetic to justify him playing there; more so considering Arsenal’s inconsistent forwards. Santi Cazorla is far more suited to that position. Soon enough Jack won’t even merit a place in the starting XI if Rosicky continues to show Wenger and the Arsenal fans what he is capable of.
The only possible solution seems to be is to play a loose form of 4-4-2/4-2-2-2, a formation which resembles Hodgson’s England – a team in which Wilshere has excelled in. Despite his injury record, it would not be risky to build the team around Jack, pairing him up with a big, nasty holding midfielder to give Wilshere the freedom to exploit his dynamism and manoeuvrability. Arsenal fans should welcome the on-going Maroune Fellaini rumours, a physical presence in midfield that has been yearned since the days of Patrick Vieira. Marouane Fellaini would help take the defensive burden away from Wilshere while also swapping places to take a more offensive role if need be. A double pivot could do wonders for Wilshere, negating his defensive roles and allowing him to work on the attacking side of his game.
Jack also possesses a fiery temper which has gotten the better of him sometimes. However having one is neither a weakness nor the liability if controlled. It is in curbing that temper where Arsene Wenger will be looking to. Many great players had serious flaws that were curbed to their advantage – Zinedine Zidane, Eric Cantona and Paul Gascoigne all possessed fiery tempers but exploited them successfully to their advantage. Jack Wilshere’s aggressive, tenacious attitude could prove a real asset to the Arsenal squad; a team which has often been criticized as spineless and leaderless.
Despite his obvious flaws, young Jack is still only 21 with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Yet he cannot rest on his laurels if he wishes to cement a position as a crucial player and lay stake to Arsenal’s captaincy. His obsession with perfecting his game should nullified by Arsene Wenger as he seeks to mould himself as Arsenal’s most crucial player. What is certain, however, is that Jack Wilshere will never fulfil his undoubted potential until he decides upon his best position.