The last couple of days saw an interesting discussion spring up: the role of Jack Wilshere in this current team. Does he have any role to play, where does he fit in if so, and what should be done if City comes knocking on our door in the summer? A couple of articles from Gunnerblog, some heated discussions on Twitter and I’ve made up my mind on the matter.
Does Jack have a role to play?
Or, if we paraphrase it, what can Jack do that others cannot? What are the qualities that make him stand out? What is his edge over Cazorla and/or Ramsey?
I believe Jack has at least two very important qualities: his dribbling ability and his undying love for the Club.
Let’s take a closer look at the first. I believe his knack to take on defenders head-on is unparalleled. I think that in this regard, he’s the best at Arsenal.
I don’t mean to say his close-quarters control is superior to Cazorla’s or Ozil’s. I solely focus on Jack’s ability to carry the ball past defenders and between the lines. Watching the Chelsea game I thought this was precisely what we lacked: we had enough quality passers on the field, but not enough, ahem, dribblers. As a result, we tried to pass it around Chelsea’s organised defense. A defense which was set up to counter exactly that
Don’t scream “Cazorla” at me. I have watched the Spaniard all season and know he hasn’t got a nickname “little magician” for nothing. Santi is great for getting out of tight spots, much like Ox. But when there’s space in front of him, the Spaniard will prefer to play a one-two or make any other pass. He rarely tries to get past a defender with a skill move or a trick.
Ozil prefers another option entirely. He tries drawing defenders to himself and then passes the ball to a teammate to both continue the move and cut off several opposition players. If there’s a player between the lines, Ozil will find him. If the German is without the ball, but there’s space between the lines, he’ll attack it. Indeed, much of his work is work in grey zones, work without the ball. That’s why his influence is hard to measure . We only know how to measure on-ball actions. Closer to the point, though, and Ozil isn’t the type of player to take defenders head-on. He has neither the pace, nor the physique, although Mesut put on some muscle recently.
Rosicky is the only player in the squad to possess Jack’s ability, but the Czech is 34 doesn’t get playing time and can leave in the summer. I’d even go as far as to say he is likely to leave. Which will break my heart, but it’s another story entirely.
Where does Jack fit in?
Having sufficiently answered (I hope) the first question, I’m going to try and answer the second. For whom the bell tolls should Arsene decide to reinstate Jack?
We can safely say it’s not Coquelin. Though Hodgson deployed Jack in a deeper position, the national team and Arsenal are very different. In their set-up, game plan, resources, style and, most importantly opposition and manager. Wilsh may do fine for England, but he won’t do as well for us in deeper position. For now, he has neither the discipline as I discussed here, nor the humility to stay away from the action and be content to just tackle and intercept. Besides, we have a ready-made product in Coquelin, who does that job outstandingly. Making him play second fiddle to Wilshere is both stupid, unnecessary and risky. We may lose some points while Jack would be learning his trade in a new position.
We can also assume it’s not Ozil Jack will be looking to displace. Though Arsene shunted Mesut wide to accommodate Jack centrally earlier in the campaign, I’m quite sure the Frenchman won’t do it again. His decision was (at the time) dictated by a need to play Ozil into form while also trying to get the Ramsey-Wilshere partnership to gel. The latter part hasn’t really worked, though there may be hope for it yet. Then again, Ozil has been brilliant since his return, bagged a player of the month award and is on course to bag a second.
Besides, Jack is not your typical playmaker. Ozil is. Mesut is always on the lookout for a perfect pass. Remember his Reading pass? Of course you do. He is selfless to the hilt, just think back when he tried to play Walcott in against West Ham instead of shooting himself . Jack is unlikely to do that, though his passing ability is impeccable. Wilshere is just not that type of player, despite spotting number 10 on his back. He’ll try to carry the ball himself.
This leads me to the only plausible conclusion: Jack is fighting for a place with Cazorla and Ramsey. Overtaking either will be hard, though not impossible. Cazorla has hit 30 and rumours persist he may leave. Whether it’s this summer (no, God, please, no!), next, or in a couple of years, Jack has time to simply wait Santi out. It’s not like the Spaniard will play all games anyway.
With Ramsey it gets harder. Jack and Aaron are approximately the same age, however they do the same things in a different way. Ramsey plays more without the ball, Jack with it. Jack’s way into the team may be Aaron’s patchy form. I think you will agree with me there’s not much between Ramsey and Wilshere in terms of quality and so both can edge it.
What if City comes knocking?
It doesn’t necessarily have to be them, but you get the idea. I’ve brought up City cause they have their homegrown quota to worry about. They can with the same success come knocking for Walcott or even Gibbs.
The question in essence remains, however. Do we sell Jack if someone offers a lot of hard cash? I’d say no. We are no longer in a position where we have to sell our players to make a profit. Arsene himself confirmed it.
There may arise another problem. What if Wilshere wants a raise next summer? His contact runs out in two years. Next summer only 12 months will remain. I think next year will be crucial for Jack. If he plays regularly, if he fulfills his enormous potential, if he pins down a regular spot in the team, give him a raise. On the merit of his performances. If he doesn’t perform, well…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
But I won’t sell him this summer. Not for all the money in the world. He’s our player, he provides depth and genuine quality and he loves the Club. And Arsene loves him. I’m sure he’ll give Jack all the chances in the world. If he kept Diaby that long, Jack will stick around till the cows come home. Unless something extraordinary happens, Jack should be here next season at the very least.
Righto, enough said. Voice your opinions in the comment section below.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.