After Euro 2012, Jack Wilshere was painted as the saviour of English football, the player who would turn England into a team that could compete in international tournaments. Fast forward to now, that same player has suffered a loss of form that has led to him sitting on the bench for a crucial qualifier. He has also been the subject of controversy recently after being photographed with a cigarette outside a nightclub in London, which caused uproar within the press and some groups of fans. Furthermore, he has been involved in a ‘Twitter spat’ with Kevin Pietersen after suggesting only English-born players should play for the national team when commenting on the Adnan Januzaj situation.
His role has changed within the Arsenal team as he now operates out of his ordinary position, with Mesut Ozil providing the creativity and Aaron Ramsey scoring the goals from midfield. This is reflected in his stats as he passes forward 36% this year as opposed to 29% last season, which highlights his more withdrawn midfield role. His minutes per chance created is higher this season at 55 minutes, whereas last season he created a chance every 36 minutes. He has improved his pass completion rate slightly as it has gone from 82.48% to 84.97% this campaign.
Oddly, his minutes per tackle has gone up from 51 minutes to 83 minutes which goes against the idea that he is playing deeper, but with Mathieu Flamini doing most of the dirty work in the middle of the park, Wilshere doesn’t need to tackle as much. I think it’s clear that Wilshere is uncertain what his role is within the Arsenal team as Ozil, Flamini and Ramsey are each in great form so there isn’t really a place available for the Englishman in the centre of the park. Against West Brom, he was put out on the wing which takes away a lot from his game as he can no longer dictate the play as he likes to do when playing centrally. He did manage to score the equaliser in the game, albeit with the help of a deflection, whereas last season he failed to score a league goal.
Wilshere is at a crossroads very early on his career at the early age of 21. After finally overcoming injury problems, he is fit to play a whole season for Arsenal, but he is no longer the key man in the team’s midfield. In fact, he is no longer even guaranteed to start when everybody is fit. With Ozil and Ramsey being the first names on the team sheet at the moment, while Flamini offers a solid presence in midfield that nobody else in the squad can provide. Santi Cazorla will also be around the first team when he returns from injury. Even positions on the wing will be hard to secure when Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are fit, while Cazorla can also play out wide.
The 21-year-old is best suited to playing in the middle of the park in a box-to-box role, which at the moment is being played by Ramsey who is in superb goalscoring form. With the addition of Ozil in the number ten role, it will give Wilshere the chance to score more goals, something that his game has always missed. At the moment, Arsenal have the strongest set of midfielders in the Premier League which should lead to Wilshere stepping up his own performances to ensure he is a key part of the starting eleven. With the World Cup on the horizon, it is crucial that he plays week-in-week-out as he will be at the centre of Roy Hodgson’s plans this summer.