Jack Wilshere is something of an enigma at Arsenal. His famously weak ankles have rocked a career full of so much promise, but at only 23-years-old, the England international has a wealth of time on his side.
What Wilshere doesn’t have is the right to walk straight in to this Arsenal side, a midfield full of unbelievable talent and promise, who have been able to keep themselves relatively fit and consistent in their performances over the last 12 months is what stands in the former Bolton Wanderers loanee’s way.
Despite spending so much time on the sidelines, Wilshere has managed to make over 150 appearances in his six senior seasons with the club, as well as spending time on loan at Bolton where he made 14 appearances, scoring once.
The England international is comfortable in possession and has something in his locker that not many have, the ability to calm the game down to walking pace and then at his will, burst with unbelievable acceleration and control away from his opponent, something that caught the eye as he impressed against the likes of Barcelona at the Camp Nou in 2011, a performance that really stunned the footballing world as he dominated the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi at their best in their own backyard.
But that was four years ago, impressive performances die-hard, and quickly – it is time for Wilshere to nail down his place in the Arsenal side.
Not only is he a very capable midfielder, with a passion as strong as Mr. Arsenal himself, Tony Adams – he can also score fantastic goals at will, with his strikes against Norwich and West Brom respectively being voted the Premier League Goals of the Season two years in a row.
For England, the 23-year-old midfielder has been used in a deep-lying playmaker role, something similar to that of Santi Cazorla for the Gunners, and with the Spaniard currently irreplaceable in the Arsenal midfield due to his mesmerising performances, it is unlikely that Wilshere will be able to take his place in the team, with the more defensive-minded Francis Coquelin occupying the place in the side next to Cazorla, another member of the midfield that has seen the north Londoners impress so much over the last eight months.
Towards the end of the season, the Arsenal team was set in stone, a pairing of Coquelin and Cazorla operating behind Alexis Sanchez on the left, Aaron Ramsey on the right and Mesut Ozil in the middle, behind Olivier Giroud.
Wilshere most certainly will not displace Alexis in the side, with the Chilean being awarded Arsenal’s Player of the Year in his first campaign, and with Ozil beginning to impress and gel with his teammates, it is highly unlikely that the German who operates just off the striker will be displaced.
Aaron Ramsey has proven himself to be an unbelievable talent over the last two season’s, stringing together an impressive run of performances which have led to plaudits and links with the top teams in the world, but in the last three-four months of the 2014/15 campaign, with the emergence of Coquelin in the middle, he was often deployed on the right of midfield, something that he has admitted his displeasure at: “I had a chat with him [Wenger] a few times and he said it [playing on the right] was temporary. But I can time my runs into the box better in the centre.
“When you’re wide you’re taught to try and get in at the far post so the ball doesn’t go straight across, but from that central position you can use your instinct where to go.
“I’ve got to work my socks off to get back in the centre.
“The manager felt he needed me out wide for the back part of last season and I’ve had an effect on games out there.
“But I’m looking to play in the centre and I’m confident in my ability that I can do that and win my place back there.”
A move to the right of midfield is, while difficult to convince Wenger of removing Ramsey from the first XI, extremely plausible for Wilshere, who was tried in that role against Hull City at the KC Stadium, impressing with his ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations, as well as the FA Cup final at Wembley, where he was brought on late in the game and played a part in the fourth goal.
Whilst realistic, it may not be what Wilshere most desires for the long-term future, with the European Championship in France coming up at the end of next season, it is almost certain that Roy Hodgson will look to continue using him in the deep-lying midfield role, with a license to roam forward, so a clash of interests and requirements from club to country could lead to inconsistency – or it could lead to versatility, if Wilshere can master both positions, a world of options could open up for the midfielder.
If pre-season is anything to go by, Wilshere will be used in a central role, meaning he will be made to challenge the immovable stars of the side, something that could bring out the fighter in him, which is there for everyone to see.
Injury problems have helped Arsene Wenger avoid making a decision on the part Wilshere has to play in the team, and with the current balance in the side being so perfect, and Santi Cazorla recently being awarded with a new contract, he may have to wait for the Spanish international to put together a string of bad games to get his opportunity; something he has not done for over 24 months.
Having been declared injured prior to the Community Shield success against Chelsea on Sunday, Wilshere is now also an injury doubt ahead of the start of the Premier League season, so thoughts will begin to creep in to the minds of the Arsenal faithful, will the 23-year-old always be remembered for ‘the odd performance, goal’ and his off-the-field antics, or will he overturn his fortune and realise his potential?
No matter the outcome, the time is now for Wilshere to take the bull by the horns and stake his place in this Arsenal side.