My thoughts about Jack Wilshere have often been that he should be a deep-lying playmaker in the mould of Andrea Pirlo, the 2006 World Cup-winning Italian midfielder. Jack has an excellent range of passing and a decent first touch. However, he is usually deployed higher up the pitch with more offensive orders by Arsene Wenger, which, quite often, results in him getting kicked and fouled a lot more than otherwise and, unfortunately, exposes him to more injuries than most other players in Arsenal’s team.
I think that Jack has most of the skills to become an excellent deep-lying playmaking midfielder next to Francis Coquelin, who has become one of the best defensive-minded midfielders in the league. It is quite astonishing to see how quickly Coquelin has progressed since his abrupt return from Charlton. It should also be noted that Jack and Francis have played together a number of times for the reserves and U21 sides and are familiar with each other’s attributes. Jack and Coquelin should be Arsene’s future focus as the “double-pivot” in a 4-2-3-1 system – Coquelin is very strong in the tackle and able to physically dominate matches, whilst Wilshere has good distribution skills and more creativity than Coquelin, which should be a good match for the future.
However, Wilshere has a few obstacles in his way to his path into the starting eleven. One of those obstacles is Aaron Ramsey – the Welshman has largely had a poor season, but is starting to return to form and played a particularly strong match vs. Liverpool. Another obstacle is Santi Cazorla – the Spaniard has been superb as a box-to-box midfielder since midfield injuries started coming to the fore in October 2014. Another obstacle blocking Wilshere’s easy path is Mikel Arteta – the Captain is one of Wenger’s favourites and is able to maintain a cool head in situations when Jack might possibly lose his and, like Wilshere, is just returning from injury. Another major obstacle is Arsene Wenger himself and where he thinks Jack could fit into the squad and, if he thinks that the defensive midfield position needs strengthening in the summer.
The last obstacle is Wilshere himself – he needs to learn to control his temper more on the pitch and not give away petulant fouls. It would also help if he learned to move with the ball not so close to his feet – it is my thinking that, when he runs with the ball very close to his feet, that if opposing players challenge him for the ball, he is more likely to get clipped if they are even slightly late in the tackle and therefore Wilshere has a stronger chance of getting injuries. It’s either that or we accept that Wilshere will always get injuries and that 10-15 matches a season is all that we can realistically expect from him, which would be a sad state of affairs as he is one of the best prospects that the academy has produced.
It then has to be considered if Jack’s future is best served at Arsenal or elsewhere – Wilshere is a decent player and a huge fan of the club, but, unless he can make those changes, I can’t see him staying more than another year here. It’d be sad to lose a player who is such a fan of the club, but, sometimes, that is just football and it is Arsene Wenger’s job to put forward the best possible squad each match and to build the strongest squad possible with the resources that he has available. Whether that squad includes Wilshere in the near future remains to be seen.
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The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.