In modern football where loyalty is regarded as obscene, Jack Wilshere and Arsenal Football Club are a rare fusion of passion and talent. Right from his days in the youth team it was obvious he’ll become a core member of the team at some point. He would eventually have his breakthrough year in the 2010/2011 season but unfortunately he couldn’t follow that up for fans to really assess his development, as he missed the entire 2011/2012 season due to series of injuries and set-backs.
Progress has been made.
Despite the slack he’s got since he returned from that long spell on the sidelines, Jack has made *considerable progress since his long injury lay-off. Most importantly, he hasn’t lost his appetite to go into 50-50 challenges, and while he sometimes comes out the victim of such clashes, he always carries on. Never gives up on the course. That’s the hallmark of a daring player.
The drive is also still there, a core part of his game. That natural ability to commit and skip past players is so rare for a box to box midfielder, and would be a massive tool for the team, in the coming years.
More so, the 22-year-old now looks more composed in front of goal. His shooting was rewarded a few times last season, which would only add to his confidence, going forward.
The Arsenal no.10 has also improved on his final ball, which was quite evident in the just concluded campaign. It was beginning to look like an issue that could jeopardise his promising future, after he failed time and time again to get the perfect weight on a pass. Aside constant practice to get those little details right, he has perhaps also benefited from the signing of a final ball specialist in Mesut Ozil, and its good to see Jack making use of his superb vision again, especially with the shorter passes. The assists for Theo and “Oli” in the home wins against Cardiff and Sunderland respectively are testament to his improved use of vision.
The sublime diagonal long ball to Olivier Giroud at West Brom in the 1-1 draw with the Baggies in October, as well as his goal in the same match despite having a poor game before all of that also showed just how the Englishman could turn the corner in a flash. You know, the moment of brilliance thing.
Jack’s “diagonals” are so well calculated and under the right circumstances, should always lead to goals. Once full backs are beaten with such balls, the centre-backs get isolated and a perfect square play or cut back is all that’s needed to create a “tap-in” chance. Remember, it all started from a diagonal.
Then the gorgeous (and fortuitous) interplay with Olivier Giroud against Norwich which earned him the goal of the season accolade further demonstrates how he stands out. It rewarded his belief in the tiki-taka style of play, as well as that of his manager.
Constructive criticisms would aid his development.
Then came the scathing criticism from English soccer great, Paul Scholes who claimed Jack’s development had stalled. And he was right, in certain aspects, as Jack later acknowledged. For instance, his decision making deep in his own half, where he sometimes over estimates his dribbling ability and stocky stature. He holds on to the ball way too long under pressure, when all that’s needed is to use his fine awareness to pick out a pass. He acts like he doesn’t trust his nearest teammate in those circumstances.
But that can and should be corrected. While he remains sleek in possession, the England International should also remember how important it is to be disciplined on the ball and keep the team secure. What he tried to do in the company of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho at the Etihad shouldn’t repeat itself. You’d like to believe Arsene and some of the coaching staff have pointed that out to him.
Now the Ramsey debacle. Considering both are box to box midfielders coupled with the fact that we have our Mesut, it means both wouldn’t be used together in central midfield except if Jack plays as the anchorman. Although that’s the best area for Jack to show his long passing range, He neither would nullify the threat of a tricky customer nor anticipate the opponents next move like a proper anchorman. Add to that, the fact that it limits his ability to drive forward as he’ll need to sacrifice for the team on certain occasions. So perhaps you can understand Arsene opting for more experienced and disciplined options in Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini.
A secondary playmaker?
This means Jack’s spell on the wings could continue, which would only aid his development. Arsene has always favoured one playmaker operating from out wide so it leaves Jack the possibility of carving a niche for himself as a secondary playmaker, where he can use his superb technical ability to the team’s advantage. He’ll learn how to keep the ball better in tight areas, while the unexpected diagonals and trademark drive won’t need to be limited.
This also makes a case for the team to adopt a more fluid approach similar to 4-4-2. This would ensure that Jack and Ozil can continue to roam and exploit spaces, without it affecting the style of a pacy attacker like Theo Walcott. If both playmakers act as inverted wingers, Theo can then use his pace and penchant for goals inside the box. We saw something similar to this in that 6-3 defeat at the Etihad, where Jack switched to the right side of midfield in attack and afforded Theo the chance to play closer to goal. The system brought out a beautiful move involving Ozil and Ramsey with Theo showing Henry-esque instinct to control and finish with aplomb. Everyone would like to see more of that, I guess.
So rather than debating endlessly on who’s a better player between Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, perhaps we should be looking at the possibilities that would get the best out of both. The addition of Oxlade-Chamberlain into the puzzle only makes us well prepared for the future. The 20-year-old combines Jack’s drive with Ramsey’s industry, which I believe gives him a great platform to be an explosive player. It all depends on how much he invests in his development phase in the next few years.
With two stop gap seasons under his belt, Wilshere will be looking to finally put a string of consistent displays together, irrespective of the role he plays. Now 22, he’ll be keen to prove critics wrong, like Ramsey did and show just how much he has learnt since his highly anticipated return against QPR in October 2012. And there’s hardly any better platform to build momentum, than the World Cup. Here’s wishing the spirited Englishman a successful summer as well as an explosive 2014/2015 season.