The return of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere

Having been overshadowed and perhaps somewhat intimidated by Aaron Ramsey’s rise to prominence at Arsenal, Jack Wilshere is re-finding form at the perfect time. Not only is Wilshere doing things he’s done well before, but he’s also adding goals to his game, which seems to me to be the most effective catalyst for improvement. Jack’s done some growing up too. He has a family now and seems a more mature figure than the teenager we saw breaking through a few years back, both on and off the pitch. Responsibility, leadership and determination are all becoming synonymous with Jack Wilshere and it’s good news for him, his club and his country.

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Wilshere had his critics earlier in the season, some even claimed that he wasn’t all that he’s cracked up to be. In my opinion, this was a ludicrous viewpoint to take and the fact remained, in my mind at least, that you don’t simply put in a man of the match performance against Barcelona at the age of 19 and then silently slip into mediocrity. He’s always had what it takes, but unfortunately a big chunk of time was taken away from him and his progress stalled. The same happened to Ramsey and the two are now following a similar pattern, albeit the Welshman has erupted somewhat more vigorously this season. The point is that Wilshere is now silencing those critics and regaining both form and fitness with every minute he plays.

Understandably, Wilshere has benefitted from Ramsey’s recent absence, as it allows Jack to occupy his favoured position, which I also happen to think is his best. That position is of course in the centre of the park as one of the 2 in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Despite sitting slightly behind the main creative forces, your Özils, Rosickys, Cazorlas and so on, having the main holding player beside him (Arteta or Flamini) gives him license to do what I think is one of the best things to watch Wilshere do. He is able to pick up the ball either behind or around the halfway line and drive through midfield with great acceleration and a deadly turn of pace, which Wenger has himself praised. Jack also uses his size and low centre of gravity to dribble effectively and drop his shoulder to great effect. He then usually looks to create and always tries to be positive with his passes, but if it’s not on he’s great at keeping it simple too. His forward thinking play helps energize the whole team and for anyone who appreciates what a central midfield player should be doing, he’s an absolute joy to watch.

Then there’s goals. As I mentioned earlier, Wilshere has added goals to his game and this is not only important for the team, but it’s important for him. As we saw with Ramsey (pattern alert!), these goals act as a pick me up and do wonders for a player’s confidence. Jack said himself that he wanted to add more goals to his game and he’s done that. Setting these goals and achieving them (pardon the pun) are what it means to progress and better yourself, not just in football, but in any walk of life.

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Although Wilshere’s physical ability is shining through again, his mental maturity is also a key factor in him finding form and building upon it. As I touched on at the beginning of the piece, Jack is a family man now and I really think that it’s made a huge difference to his attitude. He’s mentioned numerous times (most notably in the most recent ‘Close Up’ with him on Arsenal Player) that having children has inspired him and made him more of a responsible person. This is evident on the pitch too. You may read that as a bit wishy-washy and think “well, a lot of footballers have families” and that’s true, but it’s the way that those families influence a player that makes all the difference. For example, Jack has also said that his eldest child Archie was hugely helpful during his long stint out injured. He had something to focus on and enjoy, rather than get bogged down and ultimately depressed like many isolated injured players tend to do.

However, despite maturing a fair bit, Wilshere’s still surrounded by controversy now and then, but that’s mainly down to the media either blowing everything out of proportion or misinterpreting what Jack’s said. His smoking debacle impressed no one, but plenty of top players have been caught out like that before. But the other two flash points (the ‘only English people should play for England’ thing and the middle finger incident) were overcooked by the media, in my view. The funny thing is that the only reason they pay so much attention is because they know how big a player he is and how important he is to England, let alone Arsenal. Yes, he can still get hot-headed on occasion, but that’s the passionate player that Jack is and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wilshere has timed this Ramsey-esque renaissance to perfection. As Arsenal head toward a very tough Febuary/March period, we will need as many in form players as we can muster and the added bonus is that Jack now chips in with goals as well. Roy Hodgson will also be pleased to see the young Englishmen firing on all cylinders again, not because he would have struggled to select him before, but simply because England will need him at his best to have a real chance in Brazil come summer.

Jack has gone from boy to man and is now not only making good progress, but also proving to us that in the coming seasons as Arsenal look to be in and around the top of English football he will be playing a starring role.

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