In which position does Jack Wilshere's future success lie? Floyd Francis looks at the debate.
Here we have Jack Wilshere, arguably the golden boy and the future of English football.
A big performer for the big stage with a big personality. This has been demonstrated on a few occasions, most memorably against a legendary Barcelona team at The Emirates.
The main problem that seems to have hindered Wilshere's incredible progress, is undoubtedly his injuries which kept him sidelined for the whole of the 2011-12 season, the season after his breakthrough into the Arsenal first eleven. In the 2010-11 season he won the PFA Young Player of The Year Award and also made the PFA Team of The Year. He accomplished a lot in his first year as a regular member of the team.
This is a player who has made his League debut at the age of 16 and is the youngest league debutant in Arsenal's history but he has missed out on crucial stages of his development.
However, the big question for many Arsenal fans is, what position will Wilshere conquer? He has a bit of everything in his locker. A player who, I would say is a hybrid of Paul Scholes and Joe Cole. He can glide past players elegantly in midfield, provoke, prod and commit the opposition but he also has a lovely left-peg which he uses to stroke the ball around from deep.
He has been seen by many as a No.10. As evidenced by Arsene Wenger, who upon selling Robin van Persie, decided to reward Wilshere with the famous playmaker number, also worn by Dennis Bergkamp. This shirt number is usually a signal of intent from the manager and would suggest that, if at least long-term, Wilshere will be the resident creative midfielder.
I haven't been convinced that this is Wilshere's long-term role in the side and although I think he has got a good level of flair, I don't think he has the creativity or goal-scoring potential of, as an example, Cesc Fabregas.
In my eyes, Wilshere will not be able to match the creative exploits of Santi Cazorla, who is a superb creative influence on the team. However, he does have a degree of dynamism, that will be a huge virtue in a more central position to the team. In an outstanding all-round performance against Barcelona, Wilshere made a superb attacking contribution in the final third with a pass completion of 91%.
This suggests that Wilshere can make a quality contribution in attack but, for me a quality No.10 scores at least 12 league goals per season. Wilshere currently has one league goal in his career for Arsenal.
I'm not saying that he isn't an outstanding player, as I believe he is one of the best player's at under-21 level in world football but as a No.10 he will definitely have to increase his goal-scoring record drastically.
Fabregas was in a similar position where his profligacy led to a few doubters but Fabregas always seemed to have the potential to blossom into a goal-scoring midfielder. When Wenger watched him at the u-17's World Cup in 2003, Fabregas won the Golden Boot.
When Fabregas begun to score regularly for Arsenal, Wenger said, 'I believe he is more relaxed, there is less tension in his finishing. You feel that before he wanted to force the chance and now he is more relaxed. Also he has gained more physical power. You can see he resists much more the runs of his opponents and he is more powerful in his runs. These two ingredients make a big difference.
In Wilshere's case, I wouldn't say he has this problem, he just doesn't have the instinct of a goal-scoring midfielder.
I would also say, football is changing. You need great passers at the base of your attack, who help you to keep the ball well, change the tempo of your game and start of your attacks. Jack Wilshere is in this mould but also has the bite in his game which will allow him to cope well in the battle.
Think of Arteta who has a tidy, short-range passing-game with the tactical nous to screen his back four without being quick, strong or particularly aggressive. Jack Wilshere can be this player but will have to strongly develop his tactical understanding of the game.
He has the tenacity to succeed and also has a much better passing-range. Also with Steve Bould, a defensive coach who has a great understanding in the defensive aspect of the game, Jack Wilshere can blossom alongside the correct clientele.
Wenger's use of him correlates with this idea also. When Wilshere was used alongside Alex Song in midfield, Song would advance forward and Wilshere had to sit and screen his back-four, like the under-rated Claude Makelele. With all this in mind it is fair to say his schooling in this position has already begun.
Not to mention what the legendary Fabio Capello had planned for him as England manager. Capello compared Wilshere to Makelele.
Capello said: “Wilshere will play in front of the back four. It is not the position he prefers – he wants to go forward. But one of the midfielders has to stay back.
“Makelele was faster and could play with both feet, but Wilshere is really intelligent on the pitch. His movement, with or without the ball, has improved a lot. For me, Wilshere is better.
“In some games at Arsenal he has played forward. In other games he has played in front of the back four. He has improved a lot with short passes and winning back the ball. He is playing with confidence now.”
This gives us an indication of how Wilshere and his career can progress. For me he will have to take the advice of ex-England captain Bryan Robson, who said on Wilshere:
"I look at him and think what kind of player does Jack want to be? Is he going to be an offensive player? If he is, he needs to score more goals. If he is going to be defensive, he has to work that little bit harder on the defensive side of his game."
I am of the opinion Wilshere really should consider trying to establish himself as the heir to Mikel Arteta rather than the next Dennis Bergkamp. He should challenge himself, to live up to Capello's huge billing of being better than Makelele.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald