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Jack Wilshere

Arsenal to West Ham United, Free

Jack Wilshere is well-known to Premier League followers, having made his competitive debut for Arsenal – at 16 years and 256 days – against Blackburn almost 11 years ago. He begins the 2019/20 season again desperate to make an impact, having so far been peripheral in his first year under Manuel Pellegrini at West Ham United.

It is 18 years since the nine-year-old Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy after a short spell with the Luton Town youth set-up. Two loan spells elsewhere – with Bolton Wanderers in 2010 and Bournemouth for the 2016/17 season – highlight the fact that he never truly fulfilled his significant potential, with a succession of injuries curtailing any momentum he ever built under the departed Arsène 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 Unai Emery when his contract ran out last summer.

Tactical analysis
Wilshere is a tremendously technically gifted player, capable of both beating defenders 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 those runs extremely well, and has both created and scored goals regularly in this fashion. If he can stay fit West Ham possess one of England’s finest talents; his ability to unlock opposition defences, and the prospect of him teaming up with Felipe Anderson in particular, should particularly excite.

The 27-year-old will regardless 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 – 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 this season
Wilshere’s role at West Ham will depend on the system that Pellegrini chooses to adopt with his changing squad. In a 4-3-3 he is likeliest to operate in front of the holding midfielder, occasionally dropping deep to receive possession 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 to link up with those in the final third.

With the attacking quality at Pellegrini’s disposal, it would be logical to think that he will need balance in midfield, most likely in the form of club captain Mark Noble or Declan Rice. That could mean Wilshere receiving more licence to roam and support Anderson and other teammates selected in the attacking third. The midfielder may have to be the more positionally disciplined of these players against stronger teams, but he should also be given more freedom to attack against sides in the Premier League’s lower half.

Jack Wilshere

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