Jack Wilshere, loved by Arsenal fans, loathed by everyone else. He seems to be that player whose own club fans rate, while everyone else puts up with watching him play under par for his country.
Or was it quite simply a case of a player being used in the wrong position, and now he is in fact living up to all the hype?
Roy Hodgosn decided to play a diamond formation in midfield which was moulded around the Arsenal ace, and it seemed to work wonders (not that the result against a very weak Estonia side was anything to go by – we have to look more that the actual phases of play and Jack’s performance to draw any concrete conclusions).
Wilshere’s new role saw him picking out the right type of pass to open up the opposition defence time and time again, while anchoring the diamond formation. He was allowed to stray from his position when England were in possession to make small darting runs further up the pitch in support of the attack, using his time on the ball wisely and to good effect. The short give and move passes, quick one/two movement and planned runs off the ball saw some great chances being crafted by the midfielder. He finally looked like a proper playmaker.
In the past, playing for England, Wilshere has looked lacklustre, short of ideas when on the ball and scared to do much by ways of creating chances, often giving the ball away at the wrong time, being poorly placed or generally looking like he didn’t really know what he was supposed to do on the pitch. Much like I used to when I was asked to play for my school because the star striker was unwell on the day.
How can this be the same player that when in an Arsenal shirt has the Gunners fans raving about how clever his midfield play is and what a great future superstar of the game he is going to be (if he manages to stay injury free and keep his levels of fitness respectable)?
The answer seems to be in where and how he is utilised. He finally looked comfortable the other night against Estonia. Despite being known for his ‘final ball’ or ‘chance creating passes’ in the final third, he has no goals to his name for England and only one assist in 23 appearances. He looked a lot better playing deeper, with shorter passes and more intelligent on and off the ball movement.
Having studied clips of Xabi Alonso on his iPad before the game, it was evident to see that Wilshere had done his homework, with a chipped 25-yard cross field pass to Wayne Rooney in the first half one that even the Spaniard himself would have been proud of. If Wishere continues to be used in that new diamond formation and keeps playing those kinds of passes, making the intelligent runs and learning the deeper role in the anchor of the midfield then there is no doubting that he could be a key player for England in years to come. We might have finally witnessed him unlock his potential to convert his critics to admirers.
There are also worrying times ahead to the national side. If they struggle to a limp 1-0 win in qualifiers against the likes of Estonia then it is scary to think what might happen against stronger opposition in the tournament proper. Having said that, a new formation and a new shining star who has finally come into his own in a new position while using Alonso and Andrea Pirlo as his template, the future might not be so bleak after all.