Jack Wilshere may only be 22 but he has been through so much already in his career.
Wilshere first burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old in pre-season and the talent was there for everyone to see as he appeared off the bench against Barnet at Underhill to great effect.
Then netting past former invincible Jens Lehmann in Stuttgart, he also showed glimpses of his quality and no-fear attitude against the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid in the Emirates Cup. In a difficult pre-season for Arsenal during which time they lost valuable players, Wilshere stood out and a star was born.
Moving into the season proper and Wilshere became Arsenal’s youngest Premier League debutant against Blackburn Rovers. Wilshere rarely put a foot wrong when given the opportunity in the League Cup, demonstrating remarkable close control, vision and fight.
In 2009-10, Aaron Ramsey flourished with great performances which saw Wilshere’s early path to the first team blocked by another youngster. He took the opportunity to move to Bolton on loan, impressing in the heart of their midfield.
Despite Bolton attempting to Keep Wilshere for a further season, Arsene Wenger did not let this happen after Ramsey was ruled out with a broken leg.
A call-up to the England team gave Wilshere a taste of what was to come in his breakthrough season at Arsenal. He had previously knocked on the door but then became ever-present in midfield alongside Alex Song and CescFabregas, playing 49 games at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield.
Arsenal were competing on all fronts and Wilshere was demonstrating his quality amongst the best players in Europe. His biggest highlight to date would be his Man of the Match performance against Barcelona in a 2-1 triumph at the Emirates Stadium.
Signs were present that this boy was not only the hottest prospect in England but in Europe too. After outperforming the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, he demonstrated great close control and dealt with Barcelona’s intense pressing better than any other Arsenal player on the night. He was unfazed by his surroundings and was extraordinary to watch. Even now watching that performance back, it gives me chills.
Despite Arsenal competing on all fronts at one stage of that season it ended with the club failing to win a trophy. Wilshere obtained individual honours as Arsenal’s Player of the Season and PFA Young Player of the Year.
Unfortunately for Wilshere, there have not been too many shining lights since after he was ruled out for the entire 2011-12 season through injury. He eventually made his return against QPR in 2012-13 and there were glimpses of his previous quality but he failed to get that devastating burst that he once had back.
A lack of tactical discipline and fitness issues saw Wilshere dropped for an important run at the end of 2012/13 season with Ramsey demonstrating to Arsenal fans what he is made of after recovering from bad form.
Now we are in the 2013-14 season, Wilshere has shown glimpses of his quality. We have seen Wilshere perform well at times from a wide position, in which he can use his close control and does not have as much responsibility to dictate play.
Wilshere’s box-to-box duties have been overpowered by Ramsey this season and it is clear Wilshere struggles to cover ground like the Welshman does. This is a necessity for this role, especially alongside Arteta who requires support from his partner as he lacks pace. Wilshere does not provide this support effectively as we saw in Arsenal's 5-1 hammering at Anfield.
Since returning from injury, Wilshere seems to have lost the fearless nature he once had. It came so natural to him when he was younger and he shone though doing the simple things effectively. He created space through his spatial awareness and drive. Now there seems to be an over eagerness to impress the Emirates faithful which sees him force play at times through driving into a crowd of players.
This is partly a mental issue, which Wilshere will overcome as things will come more natural to him on the pitch again. The quality is evident but he needs to simplify his game to ensure that he is doing the right tactical job for the team.
We saw Ramsey do the same thing after he was dropped from the side; he stopped looking for Hollywood passes in order to gain his confidence back before blistering into form in 2013/14.
At the moment in the system Arsenal play, if everyone is fit then Wilshere’s only way into the team is in a wide position. Many Arsenal fans feel that this is not the right thing, however I feel he has performed well out wide, utilising qualities that he does have. He gets involved from wide positions and when he is further forward he has the ability to operate in tight areas.
Before the 2013/14 season, it was evident that Wenger had intentions of playing Wilshere and Ramsey together with a single pivot operating behind them.This pivot would have either been Arteta or a new signing.
However, the opportunity to sign Mesut Ozil was too good to miss for Wenger. Wilshere now has had to operate in a wider role to accommodate the more talented playmaker. Wilshere does not have the decision-making and tactical know-how at this stage of his career to play next to Ramsey who has nailed down his position in the side. Wilshere, for now, needs to play this wide role, which he is highly capable of doing.
Despite Paul Scholes’ rather basic insight that Wilshere has not developed since he was 17, he did not account from the factors that contributed to this including a year-and-a-half absence through injury and many other knocks along the way.
One thing that is for sure is Wilshere may not look better but he has experienced so much in his first five years in professional football that it certainly will reflect positively on him in the future.
These experiences will develop him mentally and experience playing other positions will strengthen his tactical knowledge of the game. If Wilshere overcomes his fitness issues then he will once again return to the top of his game.
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