Jack Wilshere: A big season for the Arsenal star

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"He was outstanding tonight. Jack  wasn’t fazed by the occasion. In the difficult periods when we were under pressure he took the ball and kept the ball. He played really well."

Those were the words of Arsene Wenger when asked to describe Jack Wilshere's stellar performance during Arsenal's famous 2-1 win over Barcelona, dubbed as having one of the greatest ever teams at the time, in 2011.

Against the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and of course, Lionel Messi, Wilshere showed extraordinary confidence and trust in his own gifted ability, while at the same time outplaying some of the greatest players in the world.

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It was extraordinary to see from a 19-year-old, who won Arsenal's player of the season award that campaign (2010/11), and it gave not only Arsenal but England fans incredible excitement for the future.

Unfortunately for all three parties, it hasn't quite worked out as planned for Wilshere. A combination of off the field controversies, injuries and a huge turn around in fortunes for his club not only in the transfer market, but with the resurgence of players who seemed to be going nowhere in their careers, has dented Wilshere's progress as an Arsenal star.

So much promise

It has meant that Wilshere, who two season's ago was thought of as Arsenal's only world class player, is fighting for his place in what is becoming an extremely competitive Arsenal team. 

The England international has always claimed that he is more of an attacking midfielder than a defensive one, despite his well-known ability to get stuck into the opposition when the going gets tough.

This wish is becoming less and less likely however, with the marquee signings of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla being destined to be Wenger's preferred options for the attacking midfield positions next season.

Positional rethink

That leaves the defensive midfield position. Welsh midfielder and last season's Arsenal player of the season Aaron Ramsey is certainly going to fill one of the two defensive midfield spots in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with his bursting midfield runs destined to be crucial in Arsenal's fortunes next season. 

And with the Gunners likely to invest in a much needed deep-lying midfielder this summer to complete their impressive transfer window, Wilshere may have to settle for a role as squad player for the time being, 

However, the purchase of a defensive midfielder in not a certainty and Wenger handed Wilshere a potential lifeline. Such of his battling qualities, the Frenchman is willing to try Wilshere out in the holding midfield role and see if he is up to the requirements needed in a role that the Gunners need to be filled before the start of the new Premier League season.

Last chance saloon

Now, with his place in serious doubt, it is up to the England man to decide whether he wants to play as a holding midfielder and gain a regular place in the team, or go to his favoured attacking position and risk being left out regularly.

The Gunners pay much attention into establishing their British core of players and Wilshere has the opportunity to shine in pre-season and earn his sport as an Arsenal regular at the start of the season.

It may take time for Wilshere to adapt to a holding role if he choses the position as the one he wants to play, despite appearing there several times last season. His need for improvement is clearly necessary, with his number of interceptions, aerial duels and tackles being lower than that of targets Lars Bender and Morgan Schneiderlin, as well as team mate Mikel Arteta.

Other reinforcements?

Yet it doesn't take someone with big, physical attributes to be successful as a defensive midfielder. The emergence of Bayern Munich's Phillip Lahm in that role is something that Wilshere could take heart from.

Lahm's Bundesliga tackle per game ratio (1.2), was lower than Wilshere's (1.3), yet Lahm transition was hailed as a big success due to his tremendous ability to control the tempo at which the Bavarians wanted to play.

Not only, Lahm, but Barcelona maestros Xavi and Sergio Busquets combined their outstanding passing ability with a superb work rate that made it extremely difficult for the opposition to control the game. 

It is without question that Wilshere has the bite and the skill to succeed in a holding role, but the onus is on the England man to demand that position and dominate it for years to come. He must stay fit however, a problem that has been all too regular for the talented midfielder.

It is a big season coming up for Jack Wilshere, and his performances could shape not only Arsenal, but England's fortunes in the years to come.  

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Jack Wilshere
Premier League
England Football

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