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Jack Wilshere

Arsenal to West Ham United, Free Transfer

Jack Wilshere is hardly an unknown to Premier League followers, having made his competitive debut for Arsenal – at 16 years and 256 days, the youngest player in the history of the club to do so – against Blackburn almost 10 years ago. But he begins the 2018/19 season registered to a different club for the first time in his career, having joined the Manuel Pellegrini revolution at West Ham United.

It is now 17 years since the nine-year-old Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy after a short spell with the Luton Town youth set-up, but he leaves the club with a definite sense of unfinished business. Two loan spells away from the club – with Bolton Wanderers in 2010 and Bournemouth for the 2016/17 season – give a nod to the fact that he never truly fulfilled his significant potential, with a succession of injuries curtailing any momentum he ever built under the stewardship of the now departed Arsene Wenger. Despite flashes of outstanding quality at both club and international level – Wilshere has 34 England caps, and went to both the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 – he was permitted to leave by new Arsenal boss Unai Emery when his contract ran out at the start of July. He will wear the number 19 shirt at West Ham – the same number he sported when making his Arsenal debut a decade ago.

Tactical analysis
Wilshere is a tremendously technically gifted player, capable of both beating players and playing in tight areas. His close control and agility make it very difficult to win possession from him, and he has a particular talent for showing opponents the ball before whipping it away when they commit (above). Wilshere can also play extremely well-weighted passes over, around and through opponents, meaning he can be just as effective when picking the ball up in deep positions (below) as when receiving the ball in more advanced areas.

An extremely mobile player when fully fit, Wilshere often looks to pass and continue his run in order to receive possession again further on in the move. He times such runs extremely well, and has both created and scored goals in this fashion regularly throughout his career. If he can stay fit, then West Ham have one of England’s brightest talents on their hands; his ability to unlock opposition defences, and the prospect of him teaming up with Marko Arnautovic in particular, should get Hammers fans very excited. Having left him out of his squad for the recent World Cup, England head coach Gareth Southgate will surely be well aware that Wilshere is still only 26.

On the flip side, the midfielder will have to prove that his consistently negative relationship with injuries is behind him. Technically, too, he has always shown a tendency to overrun the ball in possession – dangerous against teams that counter-attack at pace, but also for a player whose habit of overstretching can lead to fouls and further injury in equal measure.

Role at new club
Wilshere’s role at West Ham will depend on the system that new manager Manuel Pellegrini chooses to adopt. In a 4-3-3, we would most likely see Wilshere operate in front of the holding midfielder, occasionally dropping deep to receive the ball or positioning himself between the opposition lines in more advanced areas. In a 4-2-3-1, Wilshere could play as one of the two deep midfielders and look to control the game, or even operate in the number 10 position (below) to link up with the likes of Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez and fellow new boy Andriy Yarmolenko.

If Pellegrini sticks with the back three that West Ham used last season, then Wilshere will most likely play an orthodox central-midfield role. With the attacking quality at the new manager’s disposal, it would be logical to think that he will need balance in the midfield, most likely in the form of club captain Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate or Pedro Obiang. That could see Wilshere given more licence to roam and support new signing Felipe Anderson and the aforementioned trio in attack. Wilshere may have to be the more positionally disciplined of these players against stronger teams, but he should be given more freedom to attack against sides in the lower half of the table.

Jack Wilshere

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