By Tim Todd, riddler
Jack Wilshere had a fantastic performance last night against Slovenia and once again raised questions for me as to where Wenger will play Wilshere for Arsenal next season.
In Roy Hodgson’s English set up Wilshere is asked to play in what Arsenal supporters call “the Coquelin role”; at the base of a midfield diamond as the lone defensive midfielder. My recollection of him playing there is that he struggles mightily to cover the ground that someone like Coquelin is able to cover. The result is that instead of perfectly timed tackles that break up play, more often than not, Jack is late in the tackle and his opponent easily gets by him.
That wasn’t the case entirely last night. Jack is credited with 4/6 tackles and 4 interceptions, which indicates to me that the Slovenians decided to test him. This is especially true if you note that England only attempted 19 tackles on the day and 6 were by Jack.
Normally 4/6 tackling would be a pretty decent day but the problem is that the two tackles he missed were so bad that I forgot about the previous four good tackles. They happened within minutes of each other and right before he scored England’s first.
The first was well up the pitch, he was out of position, came sliding in from the side and slightly behind, and the man with the ball simply walked past his outstretched, flailing legs. The second was a few minutes later, he was covering for the right back, but again was so far out of position that he chugged to get back to the ball and overran his tackle so badly that he had to loop around to get back. Midfielders miss tackles all the time, Coquelin was dribbled past 27 times out of 98 attempted tackles, but the problem is for Jack that both instances made him look amateurish.
Wilshere is also not very accurate with his long passes. I know this gets on people’s pecks when I say it, because I say it all the time, but your defensive midfielder needs to be one of the best players on the pitch with his long passes. Think of all the best DM’s in the world – Busquets, Xabi, etc. – they are all world class ball strikers who open opponents up with their incisive long passes. Wilshere is not quite at that level yet and over the last two games against Ireland and Slovenia he’s only hit 6/11 accurate long passes. This is also something Coquelin struggles with, hitting just 32/54 long passes for Arsenal this season.
But Wilshere not being insanely good as a defensive midfielder makes sense because Jack doesn’t play or train for defensive midfield at Arsenal. In fact, this might have been his 5th time in the role in his career.
This isn’t to say that Jack Wilshere isn’t a talented player. The two goals he scored against Slovenia were a great example of what Wilshere can bring to the table. And Wilshere is a fighter. If he lacks a skill in a certain department, I’m sure he will hone that skill.
But him playing so deep for England does raise questions about where he’s going to play for Arsenal. In theory, Wilshere could be the “competition” for Coquelin’s starting spot that everyone wants Wenger to buy. This would solve a lot of the midfield congestion that Arsenal currently have with the other three positions.
But Wenger doesn’t see it that way. He sees Jack as a #10 or a #8. That leaves Wilshere competing with Ozil, Cazorla, and Ramsey for a place in Arsenal’s midfield.
And he’s a huge talent, one who has a great love for Arsenal as he recently stated ”I’ve grown up at Arsenal. As long as Arsenal want me, I’m happy.” So getting him on the pitch is important for the Gunners. But where? Where does Wilshere fit? How far up the pitch does he play? Is he a #10? A #8? A #4?
In a way it’s a good headache for Wenger to have. He’s got Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, and Wilshere battling it out for two places. And not only that but Wilshere is developing some skills with England that he might not have developed at Arsenal — adding diversity to his game and allowing him to play in almost any of the three midfield positions.
Wilshere has been out so long with injury that he’s struggled to find a consistent place in the Arsenal midfield. And that’s why for now Jack will have to remain an enigma: playing defensive midfield for England during the summers and attacking midfield for Arsenal during the winters. But either way, Wilshere is an enigma who scores some pretty special goals for club and country.