Jack Wilshere’s performance against Brazil on Wednesday confirmed to the rest of the nation what many Gooners already knew: he is a special talent. Other than fantastic goals being scored, nothing is more exciting than seeing a footballer moving forward with the ball; fully capable to hold on to it, to go past another player and move into space in front of him, and also able to find the killer pass at any second.
Against Brazil, Jack did this fantastically well. His close control was brilliant and when he moved forward the whole team oozed attacking intent: there was great running off the ball by England’s attackers and Jack found them on a regular basis. There was a wonderful energy about him as well: he radiated with enthusiasm and wore his shirt with pride: something that did not go unnoticed with the crowd.
England’s formation suited Jack very well last night. With the experienced Gerrard and Rooney behind and in front of him respectively, and Cleverley next to him, he was given the perfect role against Brazil. With the hard working wingers of Walcott and Welbeck making runs all the time, and the clever link-up play by Shrek, Jack was given the perfect support to shine brightly. And boy did he shine on Wednesday. It was good for him to know the experienced Gerrard was right behind him, reading the game well and allowing Jack to express himself to the full. After an eternity trying to fit in Gerrard and Lampard into the national team, have England finally found their best midfield combination?
We have seen similar great performances by Jack for Arsenal this season. But Wednesday’s game also made me think again about his performance against Stoke City. I thought he played well as he made the best of the little space the Orcs allowed us on the day. But I felt, he was not playing close enough to Giroud, in order to give us more attacking options and to break up their walls behind and in front of the ‘D’.
I thought that both Arteta and Diaby stayed behind too much and should have played closer to Giroud by moving into the area in front of Stoke’s ‘D’. I am not sure whether either DIaby/Arteta or Jack should have moved closer to Giroud on Saturday, but somebody should have.
This brings me to the key question: what is Jack’s best position in our current 4-2-1-3 formation?
For me, there are two sorts of opponents to consider in order to answer this question: those who play a more open, attacking game against us and those who park the bus.
If a team plays a more open, ‘normal’ game against us, Jack is perfect in the sole, most advanced, attacking midfield position; especially if he gets good attacking support from the box-to-box fellow midfielder (Diaby ideally, but this could also be Arteta, Rosicky, or Ramsey). There is plenty of space for the attackers to run into, and with the wing-backs making constant runs as well, Jack has plenty of options in front of him to conduct/dictate the game. This he does better than anybody else in the team, although Rosicky and Cazorla are very decent alternatives.
However, against the bus-parkers – and the better Arsenal are going to play the more bus parking we will see during home games – we need the attacking midfielder to help out with being a direct attacking threat as much as possible. We need the numbers up-front to avoid our attackers to be isolated and out-numbered constantly; as was often the case against Stoke. We need the most advanced midfielder to be a decent passer of the ball, as well as a real goal scoring threat in those situations; and that Jack Wilshere is not (yet).
As soon as Cazorla came on and Jack moved back a bit against the Orcs, Arsenal looked a lot better and became a lot more dangerous. I reckon Jack best position against ‘park the bus’ teams is actually back into his previous box-to-box, lynchpin position. That’s where he, just like a conductor of an orchestra, will find the space and has the overview to dictate the game; and with Cazorla (or Diaby) in front of him, he has the ideal attacking midfielder to combine with and crack open the seemingly solid defensive lines in front of them (using the wings as much as possible as well, of course).
In fact, I feel strongly that against the bus-parkers we should play more in a 4-1-2-3 formation, with Jack having the option to move back in order to find space and Cazorla or Diaby to move as close as possible to our central striker.
It will be exciting to see how Jack will develop further during the remainder of this season, and how Arsene will build his team around him going forward.
Arsene gave us Cesc, and now we got another midfield maestro in the making. He might not always get it right when buying and developing players, but when he does deliver to us another world class gem, we should bless our cotton socks he is still our manager.
Written by: Total Arsenal.