What can Jack Wilshere learn from Ozil at Arsenal?

Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere is hailed as one of the brightest midfield prospects of his generation by both club and country.

The 21-year-old Englishman make his breakthrough into the Gunners first-team in 2010 at the tender age of 18 after making his first-team debut aged just 16 years and 329 days.

After long spells out injured in 2011/12 – spending spent 17 months sidelined with knee and ankle problems – he returned last term after Christmas to make 33 appearances in total for the North Londoners over the course of their campaign.

Meanwhile, Arsenal lost former captain Cesc Fabregas who absconded back to his native Spain in the summer of 2011 to re-join boyhood club Barcelona – the former skipper had been something of a mentor for Wilshere who was often deployed behind him on the pitch by manager Arsene Wenger, where he could read Fabregas’ game and learn.

Wilshere on the training ground effectively understudied Fabregas, shadowing one of the finest midfield talents in the world and the results of that period are clear in Wilshere’s movement, his technique, his range of passing and his style of play in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield.

In case you hadn’t heard, Arsenal just smashed their transfer record to buy German playmaker Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid where he emerged as one of, if not the best attacking midfielders on the continent.

The 24-year-old made more assists for Real Madrid since arriving at the Bernabeu in 2010 than any other player across the top five leagues in Europe – eclipsing both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He is one of the most intelligent and incisive players in the world.

Interestingly, Wilshere had the most second assists in the Premier League last term – he put through more passes for a teammate to assists the eventual goal than any other player in the English top tier. That is currently where he succeeds, in his passing, technique and his vision but his deeper position means he does not notch up anywhere near as many assists because he rarely plays the final ball.

Ozil is a very different type of midfielder to Fabregas – at Arsenal the Spaniard was deployed in that free attacking role, comparable to a number 10 and at Barcelona he has even been deployed as a false number 9. But he and Wilshere share far more in common than Wilshere and Ozil. The German is not as combative as either of them are in terms of tackling, interceptions and challenges.

His role both for Germany and Real Madrid has been as a creative playmaker – deemed one of the best number 10’s in the world – he gets high up the pitch into the final third where he makes goals and scores them too.

Both Fabregas and his junior Wilshere were midfield marshals of sort – they commanded the middle of the pitch with authority and displayed a strong defensive capability as well as their obvious talents going forward.

What can Wilshere learn from Ozil? If he studies the German’s game in the manner that he studied the former captain’s, Wilshere could improve elements of his game that, at present, he does not appear to be naturally suited.

Finishing is one fine example – Wilshere has scored exactly four goals for Arsenal since returning fro his loan spell at Bolton in 2010. Consider the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta manage to chip in with goals and the new and improved Aaron Ramsey has done so too recently, Wilshere’s confidence and ability in front of goal is something of a cause for concern.

Firstly, he doesn’t get as far forward into dangerous areas often enough due to his other responsibilities defensively and otherwise. Secondly, he oftentimes hits the target but, crucially, fails to score, which would suggest he is not adept enough at finishing to beat the keeper.

This is something he could definitely improve by studying Ozil who scored 10 goals for Real Madrid last season and another five for his country.

Another aspect of Ozil’s game that Wilshere could look at is his technique and movement with the ball, rather than without it. Wilshere possesses a high technical level of quality but he rarely succeeds with final third take-ons and if often dispossessed (comparatively to Ozil). It is much easier to dribble with the ball in central midfield than in the final third where there is much less time and space granted by the opposition.

He can watch Ozil closely and improve his skill level in order that he will in the future find ways to make that space and take that time, misdirect defenders and distribute the ball as seemingly effortlessly as Ozil.

Arsene Wenger has made his reputation as a coach on developing young players – in Jack Wilshere he has the best English midfielder of his generation but the player himself must continue his development to improve, he is not the finished article yet.

At 21, it’s clear the youngster has the potential to be as good as Cesc Fabregas but, perhaps if he studied Mesut Ozil, he could be as good as the new signing one day but imagine how dangerous he would be and how ‘complete’ as a player he would be if he merged the styles and qualities of both into one. If he managed to do so over the next decade, he could eventually be considered alongside the game’s greats like Zinadine Zidane, Johan Cruyff, and Michael Laudrup.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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