16th of February, 2011, was the day when a 19-year-old midfielder announced himself on the biggest stage in European Football. He was up against two of the best midfielders in the world, but he held his own against them and helped his team beat the best team in the world. That day he provided compelling evidence that the hype is built on solid foundations of tremendous talent.
Jack Wilshere was the most talked about footballer that night. Not only did he stood firm against the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, who were then the two best midfielders in the world, he took the challenge back to them. He was the youngest player on the pitch, but he looked like a seasoned professional, unfazed by the atmosphere as he drove his team to victory. His man-of-the-match performance saw a pass completion rate of 93.5%, and had an impressing 91% of his passes on the final third of the pitch. Only Xavi and Iniesta had superior passing rate. And after the game both Xavi and Iniesta praised Jack as they realized that was world class performance by the 19-year-old.
Fast-forward three years and it’s really surprising that the game mentioned above is still his stand out one. He played 49 games for Arsenal that season, which saw him win the PFA Young Player of the Year. Playing 49 games as a 19-year-old will take a toll on a player’s fitness. And that did take a toll on him as he suffered a stress fracture on his ankle during a preseason game which ruled him out for the entire 2011-2012 season.
Since then he has never been the same. He has shown promise in some games, but the promise he showed in his first season has not been fulfilled. Then England manager, Fabio Capello, dubbed him as the future of England and stated he was willing to give him the holding role. As of now he has lost his England place to the hardworking Jordan Henderson and his Arsenal place to the improved Aaron Ramsey. But he can take positives from both of them, as they became pivotal for their respective teams after they were dubbed as outcasts.
One of Jack’s main problem is he is yet to nail down a position. When he was breaking though Arsenal’s youth academy, he was used as an attacking midfielder. In 2009, he was pivotal when he helped his team win the FA Youth Cup against Liverpool. That performance saw him get recognition to the first team where he played as a deep lying centre midfielder alongside Cesc Fabregas where he showed a lot of promise. Then he was also used in the infamous ‘Makalele’ role by then England manager, Fabio Capello. Last season Arsene Wenger has used him in various positions, as a number 10, on both the flanks, and as a defensive midfielder, but he only looked comfortable when he played as a central midfielder.
There have been reports about Arsenal being in the market for a central midfielder with Khedira, Schneiderlin and Carvalho all being heavily linked. But it is believed Arsene Wenger is going to play Jack Wilshere as his anchor man in midfield this season. He has shown that he can play in the role where he has played for his national team before. He has the potential to be Arsenal’s anchor man if he if works on his fitness and starts to show the hunger he once had. He is tenacious and is good with tackling some defensive girt to the midfield, but to really nail down that position he has to bring discipline to his game, which at the moment he lacks terribly.
Wilshere is a talented player, but to get back to into the first team he has to be persistent and have the right mentality to work hard and grab any opportunity that comes his way. This is the season in which he has to prove that all the hype about him was justified. And he has to use the pre-season to prove to Arsene that he deserves to be in the first team.