Jack Wilshere’s loan spell at Bournemouth has led to a lot of soul-searching at Arsenal. Gunners fans are keen to have a home-grown talent in these days of international imports and, dare I say it, Brexit, but the truth is that relatively few of them will object to Mesut Ozil taking over the number 10 shirt.
I asked a Gooner friend what he thought about Ozil getting the coveted number and he replied: ‘Give him what he wants. As much as I like Wilshere, he’s not a patch on Ozil’.
I agree, mainly, because I don’t see Wilshere as a traditional playmaker. I was watching the highlights of one of his best games in an Arsenal shirt (against Barcelona, in a game that featured Bentdner, Arshavin, and Fabregas amongst other) and my big question was how many killer balls did he play? The answer was none that I would call ‘killer’, in that they didn’t dissect the opposition and allow a forward player to run into a one-on-one or another goalscoring position.
What I did see was mostly positive though, as you’d expect. Wilshere was a tenacious terrier, more like a traditional number 4 (in the mound of Billy Bremner, or a more mobile Peter Storey, who was a class act in the 1970s).
I also saw a player who was capable of passing the ball through the eye of a needle, which is typical of Arsenal nowadays. However, there was not enough end product. When Jack beat a couple of players with a sublime bit of skill, I don’t recall it leading to much in the highlights I saw.
One first time pass was worth of more merit and, although I saw lot of incidences when Jack showed his ability to skip across the turf with the ball almost stuck to his feet (see Charlie Charlie-Charles in the Harry Enfield video: Arsenal 11 Liverpool 10), but again none of his hard work seemed to result in much, aside from a throw.
Of course, it goes without saying that Jack is a prodigious talent, but to be a true number 10 his passing needs to be more incisive. There’s no point passing through the eye of a needle, even if it goes to team-mate, if that player is in a cul-de-sac.
That said, Wilshere would be a welcome returnee to England’s midfield, which is devoid of ideas. Perhaps this loan spell at Bournemouth will result in Wilshere receiving a call-up from new England boss Sam Allardyce.
Although Wilshere is unlikely to push Wayne Rooney out of the number 10 position (which seems to mean play where you want if playing for England), Wilshere would be a certain starter once he’s had a run of games in the Premier League. The truth is it’s easier to get in the England team than it is the Arsenal first eleven, so I’m expecting his imminent return.
Meanwhile, I’m not quite as optimistic about his Arsenal future, although I hope to be proved wrong as he sets about resurrecting his career with the Cherries.