Jack Wilshere – England’s True Future

19th February 2013

With calls for Wenger’s head after the 1-3 loss to Bayern Munich; the 21 year old Jack Wilshere showed his class tonight in a team that apart from a dynamic 20 minutes could mount very little against a ruthlessly efficient German side. Alongside the improved performances of England compatriot Theo Walcott, Wilshere has been one of very few shining lights at Arsenal this season but will his form continue? Bastian Schweinsteiger, before the game, labelled Wilshere as one of the best midfielders in the world, but is the young man from Stevenage really this calibre of player; or his talent accentuated by ever optimistic England fans desperately searching for a commanding general in their national side’s midfield.

Wilshere’s vision of passing is impressive for a player of his age, but this is not necessarily a rare trait in young midfielders in European football with the likes of Reus, Gotze and Ozil trumping the young England player in this area. Nevertheless Wilshere often does not look as impressive in his passing as he should do because of the poor movement around him in an Arsenal team that now looks depressed and appears to lack the ability to start a big game competitively. Wilshere, when running forward, does what so few players do in his position, which is indicate exactly where he wants his forward runners to be and looks correctly frustrated when this doesn’t occur. This is encouraging and with the likes of Rooney and Walcott around him in the national team who do thrive off such demonstrative play, this is a very good sign for England and this was ultimately shown against Brazil. Wilshere’s low centre of gravity and ability to ride a challenge yet continue to keep possession and drive at defenders is his real stand out trait however. It is this that will make him one of Europe’s best box to box midfielders in the near future.

Wilshere’s demanding leadership in midfield is also an encouraging sign. A player with the confidence to not be afraid to boss around comrades almost 10 years his senior is an impressive quality in any footballer. His demands are not empty or lack creativity; they are impressively acute and clever visions to build up play from midfield to hurt the opposition in its weakest point. He was forever urging his full-backs Sagna, and Vermaelen his captain, to push higher up the field and force Bayern to back into their own box. If this had happened for more than just in the last 5 minutes when 1-3 down, the result, although not reversed, could have been slightly different, which is key in a European game contested over two matches.
Leadership comes with passion and Wilshere has this in abundance. Fitness levels aside, which Jack still claims are not 100%, his desire to fight for every last ball at 90 minutes was astounding. His passion for the game, if not illustrated clearly enough here, was shown as he was almost in tears in his post-match interview. A player who truly cares about the success of his club, willing to blame himself and his fellow players after putting in a fantastic individual performance, to defend the manager is refreshing and admirable. This is a quality that is rare in top-level footballers in the modern game.

Players all too focused on money and individual accolades would not show such emotion and this is ultimately due to what Wilshere has had to suffer in his early career. The recurrence of a troublesome ankle injury saw him miss the best part of 18 months of football as he had to lie in the treatment room as his team-mates played on without him. This has shown Jack the value of his position as a professional footballer and having had a taste of what he has to loose, it is clear that he has returned from injury with a greater appreciation for the game than he had when he broke into the Arsenal team initially.

Wilshere’s ability is being proven with each game he plays and he will continue to impress and enthral fans as long as he stays fit. It could be said that he will only really shine and blossom at a club such as Manchester City, Manchester United or Barcelona who are looking for that next generation of midfielder to play for years amongst a strong core of a team but one feels he will remain at Arsenal for now. Such links will no doubt be made with a player of Wilshere’s potential but he has signed his contract to stay at Arsenal and certainly has the years in him to still make a big club move at the peak of his career and prove himself amongst the best in the world. Wilshere however holds what so few players today truly possess and that is an emotional connection to success and success with his faltering club. Wilshere is the man for England, Gerrard and Hodgson have correctly spelled this out recently, but he has the potential to be much more than that and whether he reaches those dreamy heights of success will depend on whether he maintains not only his fitness but his love for the game and well-grounded on and off field demeanour.

Rob Schofield