When Roy Hodgson first started using the Arsenal and England international star Jack Wilshere as his deepest lying midfielder, a lot of us thought the England boss had lost the plot. We had always seen young Jack as a box to box player or even a number 10 where his ability to burst past players would be most useful.
That was a very important game for the three lions as well, away to their biggest group rivals Switzerland, and so it was a big risk but one that has paid off for Hodgson. England won the game 2-0 and Wilshere played well. Not well enough to convince his club manager though, because Arsene Wenger dismissed the idea that Wilshere could fill the same role for Arsenal.
But I wonder if the Frenchman is starting to change his mind after Wilshere has continued to grow into the role to such an extent that he was the talk of the football media after his performance against Slovenia was capped by two stunning goals. And that meant a 6th Man of the Match award from Jack’s last seven England appearances.
As shown in a Sky Sports report, those goals were just the gloss on his game. His passing stats were the best of the England midfielders and at over 91 percent they suggest that he really is learning to be more like a Xabi Alonso or an Andrea Pirlo as he said he was trying to do when first starting to play the role on the international stage.
Wilshere said last year, “There is a lot more to come from me in that position, but the more I watch players like that, the quicker I will learn. I have been watching Xabi Alonso on video in the past couple of weeks. He had a record number of passes in one game, nearly 200 in one match, which is ridiculous. Watching players like him and Andrea Pirlo, you learn how clever they are, how intelligent they are on the ball.”
He also put in a strong defensive shift, making more tackles and interceptions than any of his team mates. So with Wenger already having the brilliant Francis Coquelin to call on, perhaps he is now looking at Wilshere as an alternative when he wants the Gunners to be more positive, perhaps playing against a team that will defend deep and be hard to break down. Is this why the Arsenal transfer rumours linking us with central midfielders like Schneiderlin have become a lot less frequent? And if so, will it work for Arsenal?