Jack Wilshere sustained yet another ankle injury requiring surgery early this season which has seen him ruled out of West Ham’s last few matches. The ex-Arsenal man’s absence has triggered a tactical reshuffle at the London Stadium and the upturn in the club’s subsequent results are no coincidence.
West Ham lost their first four Premier League matches of this new campaign and Wilshere was present in the starting XI for each defeat. Often he was paired with Mark Noble or Carlos Sanchez.
The first match after Wilshere’s injury was West Ham’s 3-1 triumph over Everton, which was then followed by a draw against Chelsea and victory over Manchester United. For all three of these games, West Ham’s midfield consisted of Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang and Declan Rice.
Rice and Obiang’s inclusion added a great deal of extra energy and mobility to the centre of the park. Prior to this, the Hammers’ midfield – featuring Wilshere – was far too easy to bypass due to the lack of pace and stamina possessed by the men that Pellegrini had lined up in the middle.
Wilshere’s reputation may have commanded his presence in the side, however, his injury has allowed Pellegrini to add greater balance to his team and positive results have duly followed. This may not mean an early end to the England international’s time in East London as he may be able to take up Noble’s role alongside Rice and Obiang. However, given the club captain’s current form, Wilshere may even struggle to do that.
On a technical level, Wilshere is more talented than any of those who may have usurped him in the West Ham midfield. However, Pellegrini would be foolish to immediately reinstate him to the side upon his return from injury.
The club’s recent good form following the systematic changes enforced by Wilshere’s injury is evidence of just how damaged the 26-year-old has been by his fitness issues over the years and how negatively his physical drawbacks were affecting the Irons’ performances.