How to Make Jack Wilshere a Better Player

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Jack Wilshere appears to be the consensus pick for the job of next England darling. With 78 senior games under his belt, the form, ability and general well-being of the 19 year old are seen as critical to the future of Arsenal and the national side. It’s no surprise for the football media to pick the next bright young thing, build them up and watch them fail to meet almost silly expectations. So, how does he meet or beat them? By embracing the deep-lying role further.

Anyone who has seen Wilshere’s versatility in the complicated Arsenal system will have been impressed by his ability to pick a pass and put himself about. The Gunners have been criticised for being lightweight in crucial areas of the park this season, but his discipline is something of an issue, with a Scholes-esque 8 yellows and a red last season. Although he needs to curb the cards, I would emphasise this part of his game, using one of the most technically gifted Italian players of our generation as an example.

Andrea Pirlo played behind the strikers in his youth before Carlo Ancelotti of all people spotted his potential, plucked him from Brescia and let him be the midfield metronome just in front of the famous Rosseneri defence. So why can’t Wilshere play there for club and country? Wilshere is a more-rounded midfielder than Pirlo, being better defensively than the Italian. Simplifying his game further might allow him to work better as part of the team.

Arsenal could use an enforcer as well as having a defined launch pad of attack with a ridiculous passing range – an artist with a baseball bat, laying it short to Ramsey or launching it wide to Walcott or Nasri. It would reduce the strain that defensively deficient teammates like the French winger have been asked to weigh in with. Other examples exist across Europe, most notably in Spain, with the likes of Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta and any one of the all-conquering Barcelona trio of Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta all capable of dominating in the role.

Internationally, Wilshere does play as the deepest midfielder, but he works in partnership with Lampard and Parker, rather than allowing them to play a more attacking game. As Wilshere develops, perhaps his colleagues will push forward more to support the deeper dropping Rooney. It also opens the possibility of switching back to 4-4-2 to accommodate Darren Bent, with Lampard playing behind the two, giving more defensive responsibility to the Stevenage born midfielder.

Work rate is not a problem for the midfielder. After pulling out of the Under-21 tournament because the “stats were pointing to an injury,” his long-term health is a worry. Enter Henri Lansbury. He played 23 games for Championship Norwich last campaign and while he isn’t expected to be as good as Wilshere, as a reliever to play a 20 minute cameo, Lansbury is a viable option for Wenger to use in the same role as his teammate.

The problem is, Wilshere has already been built up as a goal threat that will in the coming seasons be expected to shoulder more of the goalscoring load. Last season, he netted twice and looking deeper at those scores, they were in multiple goal victories, scored at times when the goals didn’t really matter. On the other side of the stats, he did reach double figures in assists which indicates a creative streak rather than predatory instinct.

There’s no question that Jack Wilshere is an integral part of yet another transitional Arsenal team and a hard-working but technically deficient England side but it necessary to use him in a way that will maximise his effectiveness.  When he returns from his summer break, he may be asked to be the midfield lynchpin. It is a role he will excel at if he is allowed to express himself from a position that in England, is seen as one with limited creative scope.

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  • Dom says:

    Disagree. He is being taught the benefits of adding discipline to his overall game but in the long term he will be playing further up the pitch. I have the feeling that once he scores a couple more PL goals he will start scoring for fun. At the moment he would rather try a 1-2 than shoot. Next year he’ll get 5-10 PL goals, you watch!

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