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A Wilshere In Time: Take Joy in a Celebration of Jack’s Arsenal Career Thus Far

I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise really. Even from an early age, my eyes were focused on midfield flair and technicality. The ability to dictate a game without scoring fascinated me. Very much a product of the “Fifa Generation,” the likes of Nedved, Deco, Zidane, Ronaldinho, and Figo became my favorites. Mercurial talents that will forever go down as some of the greatest of all time. As I adopted Arsenal as my club at the tail end of the Invincibles era, I fell in love with Vieira, Fabregas, and Rosicky. Of the incredible names listed above none have ever stirred up the range of emotions that I got when I first watched one: Jack Wilshere.

He was so young and positive in his footballing approach, that it was impossible not to take notice. The juxtaposition of his shaggy hair and flailing arms to his technical brilliance and ability to burst past defenders was pure footballing seduction. Like that mosquito you just can’t bat away, Wilshere was perfectly imperfect in the way he navigated around defenders and through defenses.

Since his senior debut in 2009, his journey has been riddled with twists and turns and different eras of his career have existed as a result. Still at just 26 years of age, ever-evolving contextual factors and changes to his physicality have shaped who Jack is today. This piece analyzes how I see the different “Wilshere Eras” and my favorite moment from each.

 

The Chaotic Jitterbug: 2009 to 2012

Jack made his senior debut during the 08/09 season at the ripe, young age of 16 years, 256 days, breaking a record previously held by Cesc Fabregas. His first goal, shown below, came in a 6-0 Arsenal thrashing of Sheffield United. He made a total of 10 senior Arsenal appearances before being loaned to Bolton for the majority of the 09/10 season.

Wilshere’s 10/11 season is the one that captivated many. Often remembered for his performance in the CL first leg against Barcelona, this season was so much more than a one off. He made 49 appearances across all competitions which still remains 14 more than his next best season.

He predominantly played alongside Song in deeper midfield where he showed an uncanny ability to drive the team forward. This season and this Wilshere Era was pure “Wengerball” predicated on quick pass and move football and dynamic movement.

It was the little things that struck a chord with me. The way he could stop on a dime, wrap his ankle around the ball, and change direction; that little drop of the shoulder and glide by a defender; the way he’d position his body to let the ball run across to create space. He was the jitterbug with boundless energy constantly driving us forward.

Defining Moment: Barcelona in the Champions League is too easy, so it’s his well-rounded midfield performance in the 3-1 win against Chelsea at the Emirates in December 2010. He was disciplined defensively, physically battled against the more robust Chelsea CM’s, and broke forward intelligently (sorry no video footage).

 

The Technical Dynamo: 2012-2015

After his lost 11/12 season, his subsequent 3 seasons led to 33, 35, and 32 appearances respectively. The signings of Cazorla in 12/13 and Ozil in 13/14 often meant Wilshere wasn’t always a central, creative focal point. Despite the occasional stint on the wings, this time period was defined by forward play and high technical levels.

Jack was given the armband for the first time during the 12/13 season, scored that incredible Norwich goal the following season, and got his first brace against Marseilles. He hoisted his first trophy in the form of an FA Cup during the 13/14 season where he came on as an extra time sub and immediately injected dynamism into the team. His two match ban for “flipping the bird” at Man City fans as well as the famous drunken “shit” speech also happened during this era.

Defining Moment: Most will shout that Norwich goal. But I’m a massive fan of the one the following season against West Brom in a 4-1 win on the final week of the season.

 

The Selfless Surveyor: 2016-Current

In a time period that should have seen Wilshere at the peak of his powers, the injury bug hit hard. Prior to this season, Wilshere only made 5 appearances for Arsenal in the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons. I personally blame his gargantuan quads he carved out in the weight room.

Wilshere was able to make 27 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth after choosing to go on loan during the 16/17 season. Having watched a lot of these games, it was apparent he was changing stylistically. He was reading the game from deeper and relying less on close-quarter control and more on technical security; less on sucking in defenders to pass and move around and more on facilitating to teammates. He was now a surveyor of the game picking his moments to break forward while providing a platform.

Here’s an example of his trademark technicality with a slightly diminished burst compared to his earlier years:

Defining Moment: A game defined by a brilliant 5+ minutes yet a rather disjointed overall team performance, Wilshere was Arsenal’s one constant performer in the Liverpool match in December. He was excellent in his defensive covering and never hid in possession despite the constant Liverpool pressure.

 

I’m not blind to Jack’s deficiencies by any means, I just chose to ignore them for this piece. Football is a game that should evoke joy and the positives behind Wilshere’s skillset give me this in abundance. It’s very possible Jack’s tenure at his childhood club could be coming to an end this summer. If so, I for one have been grateful for every turn, every burst, every pass, and every bead of sweat he has left on the pitch. Let’s hope for a happy ending.

Follow me on Twitter @dfresh10

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Pick up one of Jack’s old shirts above 🙂

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One Response to A Wilshere In Time: Take Joy in a Celebration of Jack’s Arsenal Career Thus Far

  1. Victor Thompson March 30, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    I have praised Jack since he first broke onto the scene Dougie and I have lamented in several articles and comments that I mourned for the damage his injuries have done. He fought to overcome serious and repetitive injuries and never complained. He was determined to overcome the injuries and just when I was at the stage of regretting the fact that he may never wear the red & white again, he came back. It was obvious that his recovery was not complete. He had lost a fair amount of speed and I was not surprised that he was loaned out to see if he could fine-tune his recovery.

    This season he has demonstrated his class with a lot of good performances. Some of his passing has been delightful, but he has not revived the sudden burst of speed which left defenders for dead. He has adapted his play to making more passes than he used to and he still gets into the battles in midfield. He was close enough to full recovery to convince Southgate to include him in the squad for Russia.

    Alas he sustained an ankle injury in training and he was not included for the recent friendlies. Apparently, Southgate has said that it was an ongoing injury and it is not one that he would be willing to risk for Russia unless he can demonstrate that he is 100% fit. Wenger has shown no indication that he will increase the offer for his latest contract, and I have already commented that I suspect that despite his 31 matches this season, there are lingering issues in his medical records that suggest that he is still at risk of repeat injuries. I believe that Wenger cannot risk long term risks because it will take serious spending before the next season to rebuild Arsenal, and money used to satisfy Jack`s demands are just too risky to take a chance on.

    This situation is one that we would have expected to be the fate of a man in his late twenties or thirties, but Jack is only 26. He should have had his best days ahead of him, It pains me to say it but it is likely that he may be a squad player next year because he will always give a good performance if called upon, but he is no longer good enough to be a top 4 player and his fitness is always going to be a negative factor.

    If he could get a better deal with the likes of West Ham where his seniority and influence would be ideal for them to try to revive their fortunes. I personally wish him well if he does decide to leave.

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