There are three young English players who have been tipped by elements of their respective fan bases to be the future of their clubs. For Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, this statement is perhaps more likely to prove true than it is for Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley or Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. All three play in similar positions, so looking at last season, who had the biggest impact on their team?
Last season saw Wilshere return to the pitch after spending a lengthy amount of time away from the game through injury. Arsenal fans greeted his return with joy and excitement as to what some see as their captain-in-waiting could bring to their campaign. The 21 year old went on to appear 25 times in the league, with only five of those appearances coming from the substitute’s bench. Over the course of these games, Wilshere did enough to finish the season with an 85% completion rate for his passes in open play. This included 408 completed passes in the final third of the pitch, which is almost 70 more than Henderson in second place. Wilshere also created the most chances from open play of three, creating 37 for Arsenal. However, he did lose possession of the ball 328 times overall, significantly more than the other two. Although I personally believe this is more due to the fact that Wilshere is much more of a focal point for his team and his passes are in positions that are more likely to be intercepted.
Cleverley spent the season trying to find a steady place in the Manchester United team, but was still put on the pitch by Sir Alex Ferguson in 22 league games overall. The midfielder completed 971 passes from open play, which is less than Wilshere but from three fewer games and also gives him a better completion rate of 90%. Cleverley also had the best final third pass completion rate of the three last season but it should be noted that with 346 attempted passes, he attempted less overall than Wilshere completed.
He didn’t have a great creative impact at Old Trafford however as he provided just 17 chances from open play, much less than his two rivals, and just two assists which is the fewest of the three. He did create three clear cut chances however which puts him in joint second place behind Henderson with Wilshere. In terms of goals, Cleverley was able to contribute two goals to United’s tally which was three less than Henderson’s contribution at Anfield, and two more than Wilshere’s lack of a contribution to Arsenal, despite playing 240 minutes less than the Gunner.
Henderson made the most appearances of the three, playing 30 times in the league for the Reds. However, only 16 of these were from the start and as a result, played only an hour or so more than Cleverley. The former Sunderland midfielder attempted the fewest open play passes of our subjects with 990, leading to a completion rate of 85%. However this is only one per cent less than Wilshere. He also completed the smallest amount of passes in the final third with just 247, giving him an accuracy rate of just 72%.
Creatively speaking however, Henderson had much more of a positive showing as he created 29 chances for Liverpool and had the most assists of the three players with four. He also created six clear cut chances, double the amount that both Wilshere and Cleverley were able to come up with. Henderson did lose possession of the ball 222 times, which was significantly less than Wilshere but with less time on the ball than his Arsenal counterpart.
Looking at these stats, it’s easy to see that Wilshere clearly is a focal point for his team and that he will have a strong future at Arsenal if he keeps this level of performance up. Cleverley has the potential to become an important part of a team but I’m not so sure if that will be at Manchester United. Whilst Liverpool fans may worry that Henderson falls behind these two in a number of statistics they will take solace in the fact that Henderson was the most productive as an attacking unit scoring and creating more goals than both counterparts. With more playing time under his belt, this may improve.
On the basis of playing style and importance to team it’s fair to say that Wilshere had the biggest impact on his club and has a very bright future ahead of him.
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