A local boy schooled in the author’s hometown of Hitchin, Jack Wilshere has been part of the Arsenal furniture since October 2001. That’s a 16 year association with the club, a length of stay in the Premier League not often seen. Not since players like Paul Scholes has an English midfield talent grown and stayed at one club.
Jack Wilshere’s defining game for many, was -that- game against Barcelona in 2011. In the lead-up, Pep Guardiola had defiantly declared that the Catalan giants had “many players in the second team like him”. In reply, Wilshere produced a majestic display that catapulted him in the English media spotlight as a generation-defining talent that future England sides could be built around. In that one game, Wilshere showcased his entire range of talents, from tackling, close-quarters control and his passing range.
So, if he had such an explosive game against arguably one of the greatest club sides ever at such a young age, what has happened since? Unfortunately – since that game in 2011 – Jack Wilshere has shown flashes of the talent that has left many Arsenal fans (and more recently Bournemouth fans) are now wondering – Why don’t they don’t have a great English player on their books as was once heralded? Why do the fans feel they have a player that seems to unfortunately following the Tomas Rosicky career path? Infuriatingly inconsistent fitness levels, average displays and a non-emergence of an in-game leader that some had originally hoped?
Wilshere, due to injuries and a lack of a full season – hasn’t ever been able to find a niche for himself in the Arsenal team and been allowed to subsequently grow into it, he’s been overtaken by Ramsey and Coquelin in terms of recent development. Wilshere has been played deeper, centrally, more advanced and even out wide in order to “increase the player’s appreciation of space”. All the while, Arsenal have moved on, proving they just don’t need a Wilshere to succeed in their aim of challenging for a title.
At 25, Jack Wilshere is entering the period of his career where he should have left behind all the problems brought with a young body & mind and be now establishing himself and playing regularly. With 155 appearances for Arsenal in total, having been in the first team squad for 6/7 years – his career statistics make for awkward reading. They currently stand at 11 goals and 18 assists throughout his entire 165-game career.
These statistics are damning, and provide substance to the wall of text above. Offensively he’s underperformed, defensively he’s quite average. He’s picked up more yellow cards combined in his career than goals & assists. Some claim that “he’s the pass before the assist” in the mold of Luka Modric – but if so why has he averaged 1.4 key passes a game in his Arsenal & Bournemouth careers? In fact, his highest number is “2.4 dribbles attempted per game” – and any Arsenal/Bournemouth fan will tell you how that usually ends. Jack running forward with the ball until he literally runs into an opponent and is either fouled or gives the ball away cheaply.
In a year that Arsenal fans have received Granit Xhaka and have seen Oxlade-Chamberlain show glimpses of centre-midfield quality, many fans currently don’t think he ever will play for the club again. Bournemouth fans must be thinking, with a meagre 2 assists to his name – what all the fuss was about?