The most exposure Jack Wilshere has received in recent times is the snap taken of him smoking on holiday; maybe not the best idea for the Arsenal midfielder considering his somewhat colourful past, but far from warranting the drama it spawned in the media. Oh, and he’s been linked with a move to Juventus, which – and it doesn’t really take much thought – is a no-goer.
Perhaps it’s been for the best that there hasn’t been too much focus on Wilshere from an on-pitch perspective. Arsenal fans have been preoccupied by new arrivals, the performance of Joel Campbell at the Emirates Cup last weekend, and the problem position of defensive midfield.
Even Aaron Ramsey has taken on more attention, and rightly so. The Welshman will be looking to build on the fine season he had last term, with many hoping he can stay free of long-term injury over the next 10 months. He will be pivotal in Arsenal’s charge towards further silverware.
But Wilshere, to contrast Ramsey, has been flying well under the radar, certainly in terms of the reputation he holds in English football.
There was a snippet of what was potentially to come during the upcoming season, with Arsene Wenger denying interest in Sami Khedira by stating Wilshere, back to fitness, was one of many midfield options in the team. It’s well known that Wenger loves a ‘smokescreen,’ anything to create confusion as to where his genuine transfer interests lie. But the idea of Wilshere as a defensive or box-to-box player doesn’t give way to a lot of confidence.
Yes, the England international has plenty of bite to his game, but that shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a positive, thus allowing for a license to play all-action midfielder across the pitch. Wilshere simply doesn’t have the discipline for it, or the effectiveness of someone like Ramsey.
The Arsenal number 10 is just that: a player for the final third. There is plenty of evidence from last season to suggest Wilshere isn’t ready for a central midfield role. The only period in his career where he excelled over a long-term period was when Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song were playing alongside him in a midfield three. Since then, however, it has been hit and miss.
Of course, the situation hasn’t been helped with a lack of defensive solidity in the centre of the pitch. During Wilshere’s particularly poor games last season, he partnered Mikel Arteta, who is evidently declining and no longer capable of retaining a starting place for long spells over a season.
It also isn’t a comment on Wilshere’s stature. A good player is a good player, regardless of his presence and size in the middle of the pitch. And since the move to the Emirates, Wenger hasn’t been one to select his players on their physicality. Wilshere, based on talent and technical ability, could comfortably be a regular for club and country in the centre of midfield. The doubts remain, however, due to his mentality and intelligence to perform in that role.
But what is most worrying is that at 22 and having been around top flight football for so long, we’re still unable to truly identify what Wilshere’s best position or role in the Arsenal team is.
A positive obstacle for Wilshere is that if he’s going to see lots of game time this season, he’ll really need to push on from where he was last season; there are simply too many options available in the Arsenal squad for Wenger to rely on underperforming individuals.
Wilshere will also take a lot of heart from Ramsey’s turnaround, having travelled a strikingly similar path thus far in his career.
The talent is there. The away win against Aston Villa last season saw Wilshere play a part in both goals in a 2-1 win, while his commitment to the club is undeniable. But he has to ensure he doesn’t get left behind by those in his age group at Arsenal who are regularly showing themselves to be improving.
Wenger has also gone to say that this will be an important season for Wilshere, who, the Arsenal boss says, is in excellent physical shape ahead of the new season. That injury suffered towards the end of last season, while not ideal at the time, could prove to be a blessing for the upcoming campaign.