Jack Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy at age nine, going on to represent the club at all levels. After 15 years at the club, however, the midfielder has elected to leave following his contract’s completion. For many fans, this is a strange scenario as Wilshere was always thought of as the future Arsenal captain.
So just why didn’t Jack ever realize his potential at the Emirates?
Wilshere: The Jack of All Trades, But Master of None
Arsenal’s new Head Coach, Unai Emery, sat down with the club’s media team to discuss the matter not long after Wilshere announced his move to West Ham. The Spaniard revealed that Jack would not have been guaranteed play time, and therefore the player decided that his career would be better served elsewhere.
However, just how did the club come to their decision? Because Wilshere is a Jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Dearth of Defending
Arsenal are far from the defensive fortress which George Graham once built. For years, every pundit and fan has bemoaned the side’s lack of a true defensive midfielder. Yes, Francis Coquelin filled the role alongside Santi Cazorla, however, the Frenchman was proven inept when given a lesser midfield partner.
So, Jack Wilshere could have potentially put his mark on the team with some solid defending. However, the stats show this is just not his strong suit.
In last season’s Premier League Jack Wilshere averaged just 0.8 tackles, 0.4 interceptions and 0.3 clearances per match. Compare this with Granit Xhaka who tallied 2.1 tackles, one interception and 1.7 clearances per game.
The Swiss is certainly not known as a defensive specialist. In fact, many Gooners have voiced their severe displeasure with Xhaka’s perceived defensive ineptitude. However, Wilshere pales in comparison when defence is concerned.
A Passing Problem
Midfielders do not have to be defensive stalwarts in order to be effective. Think of Mesut Özil, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne; their respective clubs wouldn’t dream of dropping them, no matter how little tackling they did.
So, perhaps Jack Wilshere’s best attributes could be on the ball, not off. However, the statistics do not necessarily back that claim.
In the Premier League last season, the midfielder averaged .8 key passes, 40.4 total passes, 1.2 long balls and 0.1 through balls per 90 minutes.
Compare that to German playmaker Mesut Özil, who averaged 3.2 key passes, 69.6 total passes, 2.2 long balls and 0.3 through balls each match.
We see that Wilshere wearing the number ten kit was more than a bit misleading. Just as with the defensive comparison to Xhaka, the Englishman can’t measure up to his teammate.
Where Wilshere Shines
No doubt that each and every player has quality to their game, otherwise no one would pay them to play. So, just what is Jack Wilshere’s main asset?
Continuing with the per match trend, the midfielder averaged 2.3 dribbles completed and 1.9 fouls drawn every 90 minutes played in the league last season. Meanwhile, Mesut Özil averaged 1.4 completed dribbles per game and Aaron Ramsey averaged 1.4 fouls drawn each time on the pitch.
While Wilshere is not a true defensive midfielder or a pure attacking threat, we see that he is an excellent dribbler of the ball. However, this is the only area in which he bests his teammates.
It is also worth mentioning that new signing Lucas Torreira averaged more fouls drawn per 90 (2.3) in Serie A last season than Wilshere in the Premier League. So, if we add the Uruguayan into the comparison, Wilshere only outclasses his club in terms of dribbles completed per game.
Look Ahead, Not Behind
No doubt Jack Wilshere will always hold a special place in his heart for Arsenal. There is also no doubt that most, if not all, Gooners will do the same for the player. Fifteen years is a lifetime in footballing terms, and emotional bonds such as that cannot be easily broken.
However, make no mistake; this move is the right decision for all parties involved. Wilshere will get more minutes, and hopefully another crack at the England team. Arsenal will clear room on the wage bill as well as in the centre of the park for players like Torreira.
West Ham will also gain from this decision. They have no Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil or even a Granit Xhaka in their midfield. So, perhaps Wilshere will be able to dominate the Hammers’ midfield in several aspects.
While the correct emotional decision would have been to keep Wilshere, the cold, hard logic of life dictates that he had to leave. Arsenal don’t need a Jack of all trades. Rather, they need masters of their craft in order to rejoin the ranks of the Premier League’s elite clubs.
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