22 Midfielder Arsenal England
2014 has been...
Two years ago we could only shrug as we tried to pick through a terrible time of things for Jack Wilshere. We alluded to it getting better for the central midfielder. We had no actual clue that things would improve. We weren’t sure if he’d play regularly again at any level given his injury troubles and the fact that when we profiled him in November 2012, he’d barely played more two hours of competitive football for Arsenal in 18 months.
Put in that context and background, 2014 has gone rather well. Wilshere has rebounded from a lengthy lay-off and slotted into a brand new midfield around. Where he had previously worked with Fabregas, Song and Nasri on a daily basis; he now looks around to find Arteta, Cazorla and Ozil. Wilshere has made appearances for Arsenal in all manner of competitions, collected a winner’s medal from the FA Cup and secured a regular berth in midfield for England. That’s a pretty solid year for any footballer.
Unfortunately, Wilshere is never going to be judged fairly at any stage of his career. After showing flashes of his potential during a useful loan period with Bolton in 2009/10, high levels of expectation quickly followed. A young midfielder capable on the ball, not scared of a fight and ready to take on the best opponents he could find, Wilshere epitomised everything needed to a be a thoroughly modern midfield player. He returned to Arsenal ready to establish himself in their midfield and with it, Jack became a shining light for a new England side as they finally moved past the trappings of the “Golden Generation”.
Only in the last few months of 2014 have said generation been completely removed from the set-up, and unfortunately, Jack isn’t ready to take on the mantle and run with it as his team.
From June 2011 until October 2012, Wilshere didn’t kick a football in a competitive match. 18 months of lost development is a huge miss for any young footballer. As such, we should really be looking at the Arsenal man as a plucky 20 year-old still finding his way in the game rather a 22 year-old tasked with anchoring England through the European Championships in 19 months’ time while helping Arsenal pursue trophies on three or four different fronts.
Wilshere hasn’t changed much as a player since he first delighted in the Barclays Premier League. Comfortable on the ball, eager to drive forward with the ball at his feet and capable of a defence splitting pass, he is still often too late into tackles and it’s rare he manages to get through a full game without picking up a knock. His desire to impose himself physically on some opponents continues to put a downer on some of his performances and force him into needless battles.
Sadly the clock on when he stops being a player considered to be “oozing with potential” rather than one that failed to live up to the hype has already started.
Arsene Wenger is going to give Wilshere every opportunity possible to get things right for Arsenal. It worked with Aaron Ramsey and now the London club are seeing the fruits of their continued labour. The Welsh midfielder finally got over a potentially career-ending injury and became the attacking midfielder that Wenger saw when he was lured away from Cardiff as a teenager.
The problem for Wilshere will be the recent form of both his club and country. Fans of both are crying out for a leader to stand-up and be counted. Even with Arsenal’s recent title win and Roy Hodgson’s campaign of managing expectations with the Three Lions seemingly convincing a few, there are many that see Wilshere as that all-action winner for both teams.
He is the sort of player that can drive a team forward and pull others into the action. He is the sort of midfielder to make an important tackle on the edge of his own area and within the blink of an eye set the winger off in the other direction with a perfectly weighted pass.
But he isn’t there yet; and he hasn’t shown anything close to that level of performance since his lengthy lay-off. Unfortunately for Wilshere, his superb showings against Barcelona in 2011, when he went toe-to-toe with the then-magical trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets remains his individual highlight.
As we said before, we’re ready to give Wilshere the benefit of the doubt. He’s not eligible for The 100 in 2015 and so this will be the last time we’ll be keeping such a close eye on his development but we feel confident he is doing everything he can to become the best player possible.
Comfortable on the ball, adept at making quick, sharp and correct decisions under pressure and with a glorious eye for a pass, he is a special player when he gets going. Some of the best goals that Arsenal have scored in the last 18 months have been one-touch passing moves that have started and ended with Wilshere’s left foot.
For now he needs as much support as Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club can muster. The Emirates crowd have seen more than their fair share of long lay-offs in recent years. The trials and tribulations of Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo Da Silva should be reminders for the North London faithful that patience is vital. The success of Ramsey last season is testament to that.
Wilshere will remain the great hope of the St George’s Park generation for the next couple of years. His place in the England squad is secure for now and Arsenal will do everything they can to get their pay-off. He just needs to knuckle down.
"After the home international against Scotland, The Scotsman newspaper described Wilshere as 'an intelligent and probing presence at the hub of England’s midfield'. That's Jack to a tee, we just need to see it every week." - Jeff Livingstone
"In the last 12 months, Wilshere has completed 82% of his Premier League passes in the opposition half, a better accuracy than Aaron Ramsey (81%), Philippe Coutinho (79%) and Christian Eriksen (78%)." - OptaJoe
C+ He’s not “there” yet, and he may never get there....
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