Wednesday night’s Champion’s League fixture which saw Arsenal progress to knock rounds of the competition via their 2-0 home victory over Montpellier, offered a glimpse into the future of England starlet Jack Wilshere.
The 20-year-old was handed the number 10 shirt by manager Arsene Wenger, taking over from the departed Robin van Persie as Arsenal’s star player.
Wilshere spent 17 months out of the game due to an ankle injury and subsequent ankle and knee surgeries, an injury his manager described as “career threatening”.
Thankfully, the youngster returned last month and, after some initial rustiness (his tackling requires some revision) he scored his first goal since November 2010 to see his club through the group stage.
He was understandably ecstatic and celebrated along with his teammates, manager and fans who all understood in that moment what it meant for the young man – Jack Wilshere is back.
His manager was delighted and full of praise for the England international who had shown such promise upon making his breakthrough into the Arsenal first team in the 2010/11 season.
“After such a long time out it was great to see him get stronger and stronger. He had a difficult start but after the goal he was more confident.”
And confidence will be the key to his development – although he is heralded as the architect of the future for both his club and country, at just 20 years of age he still needs to develop – something which his long absence will have impeded a great deal and he’ll need to catch up with his contemporaries if he is to become of one the best players in the world, such is the expectation of his talent.
The goal was well-taken and his overall performance was solid – he played a full 90 minutes and stood up well defensively, making a couple of incisive challenges in and around the box and on the half-way line.
He completed 36 passes out of an attempted 48 making a return of 75% accuracy. His team collectively averaged a 74% completion rate, which is moderate, considering Mikel Arteta was playing at a 94% average at the beginning of the season.
To contextualize, Wilshere has a lot of ground to make up on his elders – the highest completion rates for the Premier League this season so far are held by his Arsenal teammate Santi Cazorla tied with Manchester City’s Yaya Toure on 97% in their own half and 82% and 84% in the attacking half, respectively.
On the continent, Barcelona’s Xavi is regarded as the best midfielder – he holds the record for the most amount of successful passes in a European Championship match – 127 completed of 136 attempted (94%). Interestingly, when Wilshere lined up against Xavi as a 19-year-old, he had a 93.5% accuracy. So, not far off, then.
Whilst the stats might only give a small insight into the what the future holds for Jack Wilshere, his goal against Montpellier signals to the watching and waiting world that Jack Wilshere’s career is live and kicking again.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald