Six years ago a 19-year-old Jack Wilshere was running the show for Arsenal in a Champions League game against a Barcelona side comprising a midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta
Finally, England looked to have a player with the technical ability and intelligence able to control a midfield, something the Three Lions hadn’t seen since the retirement of Paul Scholes.
However, fast forward to the present day and Wilshere is wondering where the years have gone.
Injuries have curtailed a career that initially promised so much, whilst a loan spell at Bournemouth failed, provoking talk of Arsenal finally giving up on their academy product in the summer and selling him for a paltry sum.
Wilshere stayed, though, and has got himself fit, for now, and will look to re-establish himself as a crucial member of this Arsenal side.
In his 20 minute cameo last night, Wilshere displayed the flicks, one-touch passing and off the ball movement we saw from him as a teenager.
In an Arsenal side lacking in inspiration, could he bring the feel-good factor back to the Emirates?
Arsenal’s midfield controller
It is important to note that Wilshere’s absence is not the reason for Arsenal’s recent failings and his inclusion won’t see a sudden upturn in events.
The Arsenal side endured a systematic failure both on and off the pitch and Wilshere himself cannot change this alone.
However, there’s little doubt that Wilshere can add something Arsenal are lacking. He is exceptional at knitting the play together and progressing the ball accurately and intelligently.
This has largely been an issue with the Arsenal side since Santi Cazorla’s injury and Wilshere should enable more control in midfield, and give Arsene Wenger a reason to bin the three at the back system, which hasn’t worked for the Gunners.
To emphasise, Arsenal’s problems are far greater than a mere Wilshere inclusion and he doesn’t have the profile of the player Arsenal need, although he will improve the FA Cup holders.
The fourth Lion?
Whilst Wilshere’s addition to Arsenal’s XI might go under the radar, the same can’t be said for England.
The Jake Livermore and Jordan Henderson double pivot in England’s recent game against Malta shows how the Three Lions desperately need someone of Wilshere’s ilk.
The national side otherwise lacks a deeper central midfielder who can progress the ball through the lines, either with an incisive pass or mazy dribble.
Wilshere’s inclusion will add a dimension to an England side seriously lacking in creativity. He will offer angles of support when in possession that the likes of Henderson and Livermore don’t have the know-how to do.
For instance, Wilshere has a career average pass success rate of 84%, whilst also averaging 1.4 key passes per game, despite playing deeper.
Gareth Southgate desperately needs a player who links midfield and attack and England are famous for not appreciating the qualities and virtues of players like Wilshere. It would be silly to think Wilshere alone can solve all the issues the current England squad face.
There are still doubts whether he can stay fit in the long run or if he is even good enough. Perhaps it’s more a case of desperation in trying to find a player of Wilshere’s mould we are blind to the fact countries like Spain produce a new Wilshere every year.
However, there should be little doubt that a fit Wilshere will be a crucial player for his club and country. Only time will tell if he can stay fit and live up to the hype surrounding his teenage years.
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