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Spotlight on…Jack Wilshere

In this, the final instalment of the Spotlight On… series, Sport Report assesses 19 year-old Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere.

Two years ago, not many people outside of Arsenal Football Club had heard of young Jack Wilshere. Now he is a mainstay of the Arsenal starting XI and an established full international.

Born in nearby Stevenage, Wilshere was snapped up by the North London club in 2001 at the age of nine and immediately stood out as a potential future star. He rose through the ranks impressively and was named under-16s captain at the age of 15. However, such was his quality that he was selected to play for the club’s under-18s whilst still only 15. Wilshere excelled at this level, netting an impressive 13 goals in his first full season. This form led to a promotion to the reserves, a step up he once again negotiated with no problems whatsoever. He continued to represent the youth team and was an integral part of Arsenal’s 2009 FA Youth Cup winning side, scoring one goal and assisting another two in the final.

The midfielder’s first team career started the same season. When he made his debut against Blackburn Rovers in September 2008, he became the club’s youngest ever debutant, surpassing the record of Cesc Fabregas. He soon made his Champions League debut but whilst continuing to make progress, he was unable to cement a place in a star-studded midfield and so in January 2010, Arsenal opted to give Wilshere more Premier League experience by loaning him to Bolton Wanderers. Wilshere immediately slotted in to Owen Coyle’s team and scored his first top flight goal in March 2010. The youngster demonstrated craft and guile beyond his years and Coyle was so impressed that he attempted to sign him on loan again for the duration of the following season. Not surprisingly, the Gunners rejected the offer.

Upon returning to Arsenal for what turned out to be his breakthrough season, Wilshere was thrust straight in to first team action in the heart of midfield. A string of highly impressive performances followed and he soon made his England debut as a substitute for Steven Gerrard. Furthermore, he was named Arsenal’s player of the month for September and was quickly becoming one of the league’s star performers. His performance against the best midfield in world football as Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates was justifiably lauded by Arsene Wenger, who described it as ‘outstanding.’ Not looking out of place against the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the age of 19 is no mean feat and bodes well for the future, both for Arsenal and England. Although Arsenal’s season ultimately ended in disappointment, Wilshere can spend the summer reflecting on an excellent season in which he played 49 games for his club, forced his way in to Fabio Capello’s England team, was named PFA Young Player of the Year, named in the PFA Team of the Season and voted Arsenal Player of the Season.

Although Wilshere was initially known as a creative, attacking midfielder, he has been forced to adapt his game so he can be accommodated in a midfield which also has to find room for Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. He has adopted a role more akin to that of a holding midfielder but to use the Eric Cantona-coined term ‘water carrier’ to describe Wilshere would be to do him a disservice. He has shown that even at the tender age of 19, he is able to dictate the tempo of a game and mix it with physically bigger, stronger players. The range and accuracy of his passing is superb and he has also shown an eye for the killer pass, notching up nine assists. His ability to carry the ball using subtle changes of pace is criminally overlooked and something which serves Arsenal well, particularly on the counter and this may be what Wenger means when he describes his starlet as a ‘box-to-box player.’

Wilshere is not however the finished article. His manager would no doubt like a higher goal return from his prized youngster and Arsenal’s Head of Youth Development, Liam Brady, has commented on Wilshere’s occasional inability to keep his temper under control. This has been in evidence this season with a number of ill-advised lunges and a proclivity to get unnecessarily involved in altercations sometimes marring his good performances. If he is able to rid himself of this unwanted side of his game and continue to improve as a player, he will be the lynchpin of Arsenal’s and England’s starting XIs for years to come.

Jack Wilshere

Name: Jack Andrew Garry Wilshere

Place of Birth: Stevenage,England

Nationality: English

Date of Birth: 1st January 1992

Career League Appearances: 51

Career League Goals: 2

Total Career Appearances: 78

Total Career Goals: 4

International Caps: 5

International Goals: 0

Key Attributes: vision, accuracy and range of passing, ability to run with the ball

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Categories: Football
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