Jack Wilshere: Arsenal’s Midfield Enforcer

With newfound health and a solid spot in the Arsenal lineup, Jack Wilshere looks ready to establish himself as a vital cog in Arsenal’s machine.

Jack Wilshere joined Arsenal at nine-years-old and has been at the club ever since, save for his two loan spells: one at Bolton Wanderers for the first half of 2010, and one at Bournemouth for all of last season. Clearly, Arsenal Football Club is a gigantic part of the diminutive Englishman’s life, and now he is a big part of the English giant’s present and future.

A true Gooner at heart, the 26-year-old gives everything for his team in every match, unlike many other players who have donned the red and white kit in recent years. The 34-time England international leads fans in anti-Tottenham chants and sacrifices himself for his team, sometimes to the detriment of his physical health. He missed the entire 2011/12 season with an ankle injury and has missed large chunks of time since then due to various ailments, stunting his growth in the process.

Everyone from Arsene Wenger to Fabio Capello to Pep Guardiola knew how good Wilshere could become when he was just a teenager. He bossed Barcelona’s midfield in 2011 en route to a 2-1 win against the legendary Catalan club, but he never played at that level consistently.

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal's midfield enforcer

Now, Wilshere is fully healthy and ready to lead the Gunners to Carabao Cup and Europa League glory. Sure, Gooners would rather achieve Premier League and Champions League success, but with so many players and staff moving in and out of the club this season, two trophies are better than none — no matter how small they may be.

The center midfielder’s determination makes him invaluable to the team, and that reason makes him Arsenal’s new enforcer in the middle of the park. Until now, Arsenal had not had a player who plays with his whole heart in each match, except for Alexis Sanchez, who naturally seemed distracted towards the end of his time at the club.

With Per Mertesacker set for retirement at the end of the season and Laurent Koscielny’s career winding down, there is only one choice for captain in the Arsenal squad: Jack Wilshere. He fights, he attacks, he defends, and he shares the ball effectively, leading him to have one of the most well-rounded skill sets in the entire team. He leads vocally and by example, shows his commitment to the club, and knows what it is like to be at the top of the world and at rock bottom.

Wilshere’s workman-like defense and dynamic attacking make him the perfect player to run the show in the middle of the park. His versatility stands out among his many strong qualities: he can play as a box-to-box midfielder, a holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder, and even out on the wing. He plays best as a box-to-box midfielder with the freedom to run with the ball at opposing defenders. He never backs down from a challenge, and even though he stands at just 5-foot-8, he never fears anyone on the pitch.

That fearlessness has led to him missing big chunks of time with injury, and even after multiple major injuries to his ankle, he resolutely says that he will not change his style of play. Thus far, that lack of change looks insane because of his chronic injuries, but Gooners hope that the England international can stay healthy and lead the club to glory. Here’s why he is such a vital cog in Arsenal’s machine.


Statistical Analysis

Wilshere suffered a broken leg in April of last season, which caused him to start off the season slowly. Now that he has recovered and works his way into the starting XI, the midfield general looks back to his best. Most of his football has come in the Europa League, and he dominated in the group stage.

Impressively for the brittle midfielder, he started five of the six group stage games and had the 12th-highest rating of any player in any group, according to WhoScored. By averaging a little more than 78 minutes per match, Wilshere evidently has more work to do to get up to Arsene Wenger’s fitness standards, but his work in those matches was nothing short of phenomenal.

Across all competitions, Wilshere completes 86.2 percent of his passes. That’s quite good, considering he plays in a role where he makes many risky passes to his forwards so he can be an offensive catalyst. He has only three assists to his name in all competitions, but he made 2.3 key passes per game and 1.3 long balls per game in the Europa League.

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal's midfield enforcer

In terms of defensive statistics, the 26-year-old needs to improve. He makes 0.8 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per game, and as a center midfielder, he can definitely improve those tallies. Furthermore, he fouls 0.9 times per game. Once he intercepts and tackles more than he fouls, he will truly intimidate opponents on each end of the field.

Wenger will not give Wilshere as many opportunities in advanced roles because Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are ahead of the Brit for the attacking midfielder positions, so he needs to improve his reading of the game. It may be hard for him to tackle more due to his past injuries, but if he can press attackers and intercept passes, he will become a crucial member of the Arsenal squad.

A huge strength of his that he displayed many times in the Europa League group stage is his dribbling ability. He made 4.7 dribbles per game, proving how dynamic a presence he is in midfield. He had the fourth-most dribbles in the competition’s group stage.

His best attributes are his intangibles: his bravery, determination, and aggressiveness. He has the makings of a true enforcer, midfield general, and leader for the north Londoners, thanks to his aforementioned intangibles and ability to pick out a great pass, dribble past opponents, and act as a catalyst in the center.

The Stevenage-born player has spent nearly two-thirds of his life at the club, which is rather unheard of considering the constant merry-go-round in today’s transfer market. He has never quit on the club during its struggles, and the club has never quit on him during his periods of injury and poor form. Now, it seems that Arsenal’s no. 10 is ready to take the world by storm and finally live up to the promise he showed when he forced his way into Arsene Wenger’s first-team plans as a teenager.

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