Brilliantly inspired by Dave’s blog about Jack Wilshere (by the way: it’s not Wiltshere, it’s not Wilshire, it’s Wilshere. The number of times his name is misspelled is appalling), I started thinking about how our former academy gem could actually re-build his career at the Arsenal.
Our man has quite some way to go after a rather disappointing campaign with Bournemouth, our next opponent in the league, but definitely has the technical ability to compete with the likes of Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey for a place alongside Granit Xhaka – the only midfielder guaranteed a place in our starting XI.
Of course his fragile body is an issue and so is his attitude, off the pitch but also on the pitch, however the main hurdle in his race to reignite his Arsenal career is Arsène Wenger – the man who gave him his chance as a teenager.
Initially deployed on the wings, Jack Wilshere soon became a mainstay in the Arsenal’s operation centre and delivered some brilliant performances alongside Alex Song – before minor and major injuries brutally stopped his growth.
Was he overplayed? Did everything come too much, too soon? Possibly yes but that’s not something I’m interested in, great players often play a lot since a very young age and a reliable body is part of the tools required to become a true great, in any sports.
Since Jack Wilshere early days at the Club, though, things have changed a lot on and off the pitch: the old 4-2-3-1 formation has been binned in favour of the sexier 3-4-3 system and the constant presence of both Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey – whose performances do not seem to influence the manager’s decision-making process – make it difficult for another creator to find a place in our starting XI.
The German has always been untouchable for Arsène Wenger, his main man in midfield, his creator-in-chief and his role was never questioned – and never is; the former Cardiff man isn’t immune from the occasional demotion to the bench but Arsène Wenger has been trying to play him in any position one can imagine, often sacrificing the team’s balance to fit him in.
Aaron Ramsey potentially is a great player but he looks like he wants to be the main man, the central hub and eventually what Frank Lampard was to Chelsea: the free-roaming, all-round midfielder who has total freedom on the pitch.
Now, it’s one or the other – it’s evident.
The pair worked very well during the German’s debut season, when Aaron Ramsey was playing next to Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini, with Mesut Özil as a classic #10. The Welshman enjoyed his best season in terms of goals scored and built a true understanding with his illustrious teammate, often combining in small spaces or providing those incisive runs that Mesut Özil loves to pick with a pinpointed pass.
Everything was good, Mesut Özil’s form eventually dipped towards the end of his first taste of the exhausting English football season but he still finished with 13 assists and 7 goals to his name, while Aaron Ramsey scored 16 goals and assisted his teammates on 9 occasions.
Most importantly, the Arsenal won the FA Cup against Hull City, breaking the infamous nine-years drought every paper, website, pundit and fan was laughing about.
Then, something changed: the hungry, combative, solidary Aaron Ramsey made room for a more selfish and less tactically-disciplined midfielder, who kept pushing forward to create chances – for himself more than for others – but systematically forgot to have a look at the shape of the team behind it; whether it happened because of Arsène Wenger’s instructions and tactically-naïve approach or for his own decision, it broke a rather fluent system. The same can be said for Mesut Özil, who surely has his own unbelievable qualities and his very own style of play but did very little to prove doubters wrong; often marginalised by his opponents or even his teammates, the German suffered from the evident lack of shape of the team but didn’t show any sign of rebellion – something he will always be criticized for.
We are now at a stage where we have a proper battle to be the Arsenal’s very own #10, with the legitimate although inconsistent Mesut Özil facing the rampant Aaron Ramsey, whose physical approach surely suits English fans and media more than Özil’s languid, introverted style.
Curiously enough, neither of them wears the #10 on the back of their shirt and this is where the Arsenal’s proper #10 could come to the rescue. More inclined to sit back and play in a deeper position, Jack Wilshere might be a decent candidate to bring dynamism to our game and create a link between Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil. He is also technically more gifted and definitely more adventurous than Mohamed Elneny, he could cover a lot of pitch alongside the Swiss and provide better passing options for his teammates, something that the Egyptian struggles to offer.
It’s all about accepting to play for the team more than for himself and accept the fact that the spotlights will reach other people but it is likely to be the only way back for Jack Wilshere.
While Aaron Ramsey is a midfielder who dreams to be a #10, Jack Wilshere is a #10 who never hid his desire to play deeper and influence the game from the back; on paper, he looks like a win-win situation for the player, the Club and the team but the reality might hit very hard, very fast.
Jack Wilshere is injury prone, he’s left-footed exactly like Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil and his fitness levels might not be at the standard required to be a regular presence in our midfield; most importantly, Jack Wilshere doesn’t seem to be included in Arsène Wenger’s holy circle anymore and that might prove to be the most difficult of any hurdles he will face.
Anyone outside that circle is destined to leave, soon or late, and no player has crawled back from there.
Good luck, Jacky Boy.