Wilshere shines as England beat Brazil
Can Arsenal & England midfielder Jack Wilshere roar the Three Lions on to World Cup glory?
As a football fan, when you watch Jack Wilshere it's hard not to get excited.
Yes, of course last night's game against Brazil was a friendly. And yes, he may have been afforded a little more space than usual, but the fact remains, Wilshere's performance last night was top drawer.
His ability to dictate a game is all the more impressive when we consider he is still only 21. Wilshere seems to have mastered one of the most important assets for a midfield player in that he's always available to receive the ball. We all know of his bravery in the tackle, an admirable trait for someone so small in stature. Proof of this was seen last night at Wembley as Wilshere made the most tackles of any England midfielder, racking up five in total.
However, his willingness to demand the ball constantly is a different type of bravery, and one not often recognised in the more physical English game where "getting stuck in" is the most important midfield trait.
To constantly put yourself under pressure by controlling the ball requires huge levels of self belief in your own ability. Wilshere has this in abundance, and he combines it with crisp, accurate passing that acts as the catalyst for many of his teams attacks.
Last night, for example, he achieved a 94% pass completion rate. Wilshere gets on the ball a lot, and rarely gives it away. A good combination in an England side that has always struggled to retain possession.
Wilshere lists Steven Gerrard as one of his heroes. In an interview with the Daily Star, he said: "If I can get anywhere near as good as him (Gerrard) and drive the team forward like he does, then I will be happy".
It's obvious that Wilshere puts these words into action on the pitch. He has an unbelievable ability to beat players in midfield, and attack exposed defensive lines. Rooney's first goal last night was an example of this. Wilshere's driving run opened up space for other players, and his perfectly weighted slide rule pass to Walcott shows he has the elegant touch to couple with the more forceful, direct side of his game.
However, it is important to remember that the Arsenal man represents a different type of player to Gerrard. Wilshere has openly admitted that Gerrard's long-range passing is better. No one will contest that, and while Gerrard's ability to hit the "Hollywood pass" is admirable, it doesn't always come off, especially against better opposition in the international arena.
Gerrard explodes into life after quiet periods in a game, his attributes are seen mainly on the Match of the Day highlight reel through a 25-yard screamer, or a bone-crunching tackle.
But these attributes were no good to England, when they were getting passed off the park against Italy in Kiev during the summer. How badly England needed a player to retain the ball, to complete a few short passes, and allow their midfielders to see some of the ball, instead of chasing Andrea Pirlo around for 120 minutes.
Wilshere is that type of midfield player. He manages to retain the aggression and directness present in many English midfielders, while also possessing a patient, possession-aware style unlike those that have gone before him.
Hype is a problem in England, too much pressure is put on young players shoulders too soon. So, when they don't fulfil the unrealistic expectations of the media, their performances suffer as a result.
Jack Wilshere will not fall into such a trap, he is a tremendously brave and self confident player that will only improve and become more consistent as time passes.
If last night's performance against Brazil foreshadows what he will do in Rio in 2014, England's predictable pre-World Cup hype maybe actually be valid.
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