Jack Wilshere seems to have been around forever. He made his debut nearly seven years ago now. He’s been touted as the savior of English football, like so many have over the past few years. Everyone knows Wilshere and most realize his talent. Yet, he’s had a tough couple of years. The young Englishman has been hampered by injuries for the last four seasons and has struggled to reach his potential.
These days, fitness isn’t the only problem for Wilshere. He will also struggle to get into Arsenal’s central midfield. With Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Francis Coquelin all ahead of the 23 year old in the pecking order, his chances could be limited. So, in order to get into the team, he may need to adopt a new position, at least for the time being. After coming back from injury, he made some very impressive appearances as a right midfielder. It may not be his long term position, but, to get into the team and start fulfilling his potential, Wilshere may have to ply his trait on the right side of midfield.
Wilshere started the final two matches of the Premier League season on the right hand side. Those were two of his more impressive games this season.
He received two of his highest whoscored ratings of the season in his starts on the right. Now, whoscored is hardly and exact science, but it is often a good indicator of a players performance. Whenever he’s played wide, he has shown a knack for gliding past players. In his five appearances on the right, Wilshere completed 14 dribbles in 206 minutes or a dribble every 15 minutes. When played central he has completed 18 dribbles in 526 minutes, or a dribble every 30 minutes. He created a chance every 23 minutes in those appearances, an extremely impressive number. It’s a very small sample size, but it has been an impressive sample size.
Of course Jack Wilshere isn’t exactly a classic winger. He does not have much of a right foot, especially considering he’d be playing on the right. Yet, there is still reason to think that he’ll be able to play there and that Arsene Wenger will pick him there. When he came through the ranks, the young Englishman played some right midfield. He played there when he first made the breakthrough into the first team at Arsenal as well. So, while it may not be his natural position, it’s not exactly alien to him. Arsene Wenger has always said he likes to play with one player that is more of a natural winger and one player that is more of a midfielder on the wings. If you look over the years, that does hold true. Samir Nasri often played wide with someone like Theo Walcott opposite of him. In the last three seasons, Arsenal have played Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Aaron Ramsey wide with someone quick opposite them, usually Theo Walcott or Alexis Sanchez. Even when they’ve played Alex Oxlade Chamberlain opposite Walcott or Sanchez, Wenger has said that he thinks of the Ox as more of a midfielder than a winger. So, despite not being a natural winger, Wilshere can get a chance out wide under Arsene Wenger.
Playing wide may not be his long term future, but Jack Wilshere needs to get on the pitch and get a run of games. The best way to improve and fulfill potential is to play, so no matter where it is on the pitch, Jack needs to play. I, like most people, believe his long term future is as a central midfielder. That said, if playing wide gets him time on the pitch, I’m very interested to see how he does there.