Finally, an England performance to get excited about. It was by no means flawless from the Three Lions – Phil Jones’s defensive horror show indicates there is plenty of work to be done by Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville to improve the team’s shaky backline – but the attacking verve and fluidity which was on display in the 3-2 Euro 2016 qualifying win against Slovenia was certainly encouraging, and was all spearheaded by one man.
Jack Wilshere doesn’t make life easy for himself sometimes, but his stellar, two-goal display on Sunday went a long way to convincing his doubters – somewhat belatedly, one could argue – that he is a footballer who possesses supreme talent. While his first goal was a wonderfully taken strike in its own right, blasting the ball into the top-left corner from outside the box to level the scores on the hour mark, it was his second finish 15 minutes later that really showcased his abilities.
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By now thriving in a more advanced attacking midfield role having initially started the game in a deeper position, Wilshere completed a magnificent England team move – and credit must also go to Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana for the part they played in this – by launching an absolute humdinger of a shot which seared past the hapless Slovenian goalkeeper and into nearly the exact same area of the goal as his earlier effort.
To produce such quality once in a game is impressive; to do so twice shows that what we are dealing with here is a special player who, on his day, can turn games around single-handedly. For all the talk of Raheem Sterling being their next best hope and most skilful footballer, it is easy to forget that in Wilshere, the Three Lions have someone with exquisite technical footballing ability that is rare to see in an England player.
And yet, the reasons as to why the 23-year-old is perhaps under-appreciated when it comes to his country are understandable, and indicate that the Arsenal youngster may still need time to mature before he can emerge as one of England’s finest footballers.
A succession of lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury has impacted his still-fledgling career, and he cannot be blamed for this, however when fit, the times when Wilshere has dazzled for either club or country have been too seldom, too irregular. The fact that his brace against Slovenia marked his first two senior goals for his country on his 28th cap – not to mention his meagre return of six goals in 100 league appearances over seven seasons at Arsenal – shows there is much work to be done.
Nevertheless, he remains an exciting footballer with ample time on his side. Wilshere has won Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season competition for two years running, while the show’s host Gary Lineker – England’s all-time second highest scorer and one of their finest-ever players – claimed his second strike against the Slovenians was one of the top ten goals in Three Lions history. His ability to score such spectacular efforts suggest his most effective position is as an advanced central midfielder; Roy Hodgson and Arsene Wenger may very well have taken note of this.
If Wilshere can produce such moments of magic on a more regular basis (and maybe avoid getting in trouble with the FA for once) then he could soon receive the backing of a still-sceptical England fanbase and ultimately be remembered as one of the country’s most celebrated – rather than most underrated – footballers.