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Is time running out for Jack Wilshere?

We adore his passion, his love for the club, his heart on the pitch, but most of all we stick out our chests in regards to his home-grown nature.  Jack Wilshere is a favorite amongst the support at the Emirates, but his stock with many has been in somewhat of a decline.  Yes, you can cite that injuries may have something to do with that, and fears that he may turn into another Abou Diaby, but our pigeon-toed boy wonder may have entered his own last chance saloon.  No, I don’t mean due to his childish antics via his defiance against Arsene Wenger with his smoking, but rather it’s his play on the pitch that must make us all wonder if he’s a player that should be held in such high regard.

In speaking with my friend Jake, he pointed out (rightfully might I add) that numbers and statistical comparisons cannot be held as gospel, that overall play and what you do on the pitch that matters most.  Jake is not wrong, but for me, Wilshere not only fails to bring to the table qualities that we lack in both statistics and overall play, but he now runs the risk of becoming a player we don’t have to fight to keep.

He’s Made Of Glass

This really doesn’t come as a shock given the fact that Arsenal have written the standard when it comes to first-team injuries, but it’s become more and more of an issue with Wilshere, especially this season.

Numbers pulled from show that Jack has missed a combined 269 days with a Malleolar (ankle fracture) injury since the 2009/2010 campaign.  Add to that the 125 missed via his knee operation in 2011/2012, 62 days from two separate sprained ankles and 231 days with fatigue fractures, Wilshere’s total time spent on the treatment table since 09/10 amounts to a staggering 687 days in the last five seasons.

Jack Wilshere

Now, I can guarantee you that there will be many that will rise to his defense and claim that we truly have yet to the best of Wilshere because he’s missed so much time due to his injuries.  While that may be the case, the truth of the matter remains that you cannot excuse over-rated play when he is fit just because he makes Robin van Persie look like man of steel.  Further more, is that not the same argument levied in the defense of Diaby?  Good when fit, but rarely ever fit – for me, that’s not acceptable.


Stagnation In Development

You can certainly present the argument that it’s hard to develop as a player when you’ve spent so much time away from training and time on the pitch, but even when fully fit, statistical analysis via shows that Wilshere is the least effective creative player we currently have.

When compared to Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey (I didn’t even bring Tomas Rosicky into the mix for this), the findings produce the following:

Wilshere Comparison in Broad Stats

Image: Wilshere Comparison with Ramsey, Cazorla and Ozil

As the above graph shows, over the course of the last two seasons, Jack Wilshere is last in all statistical categories for the exception of the amount of tackles he lost to an opposing player.

While I can understand that flat total numbers can misconstrue a players effectiveness for better or worse, I went ahead and compared the same four players in a per 90-minute matrix to further support my findings:

Image: Wilshere comparison per 90 minutes

With the numbers plugged into a different comparison matrix, Wilshere yet again can only claim to top one category, this time averaging the most blocks in a 90-minute span.

It’s true that sometimes numbers do in fact lie, but unless you can factor in the amount of ground he does (or does not) cover in total and in 90-minutes on average, the evidence produced does not make a case for Wilshere being a truly effective creative player, and certainly not better then the other three major creative forces Arsenal have in the first team.

Indeed you could argue that there is time for Wilshere to truly find his creative footing in the side, and his performances for the national team many times offer a glimpse into what he could potentially be for Arsenal.  However, when you factor in the quiet, yet brilliant playmaking ability of Mesut Ozil (recently was found to be one of the top two most effective attacking midfielders in Europe), Santi Cazorla’s irreplaceable form since coming to the club and Aaron Ramsey’s strong play by the numbers, Wilshere is at best fourth choice in the pecking order.  The recent play of Cazorla in the center of the park alongside Francis Coquelin further pushes Wilshere down the list, as rather than potentially being Ramsey’s backup in midfield, he’s now fighting a losing battle against the Welshman to be the first choice central midfielder off the bench.


 Speaking Of Coquelin…

It could have all turned out so wrong for the Frenchman, but injuries to the first team saw Coquelin brought back from loan and thrust straight into the XI – it was not only a move that turned out to be brilliant for both the club and the player, but added to Wilshere’s woes.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Arsene Wenger considered Wilshere’s long-term future to be as a holding midfielder rather than a forward thinking central player.  Aided by strong performances for England in that role, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to see Wilshere deployed in such a fashion.  However, with injury issues that seem all too common now, for a player expected to be physical and strong in the tackle, perhaps that wasn’t the role for him.  Add the sensational play from Coquelin in that holding role that has seen many claim the Frenchman is the best in the league in that position, it appears that yet another potential starting birth has been taken away from him.

I know that speculation is never truly worthwhile to mention, and that’s something we don’t really do here, but it’s briefly supportive of my stance to mention that given we are still linked with interest in a few central players this summer (namely Morgan Schneiderlin, Moussa Sissoko and Ilkay Gundogan), that any capture of a player of sufficient quality during the summer window throws Wilshere’s routine involvement in first-team duties completely for a loop.

Truthfully, it’s all a bit hazy for the England man with it being increasingly difficult for him to make the huge impact everyone has been expecting from him.  To make matters worse…


 He Needs To Look Over His Shoulder

At what do you ask? Simple – Arsenal currently have three talented central players coming through the rank.  The trio of Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and the newly acquired Kristian Bielek means that it won’t be long before there is further competition for first team places in a matter of a couple of seasons.

Further Reading: Scout Report on Dan Crowley

The praise surrounding Crowley has yet to cease, while Arsene Wenger has already Zelalem looks in the first-team in both friendlies and in cup competitions.  Surely, these players will soon be knocking on the gates of the senior squad.  In addition, the fact that Bielek is actually a holding player could easily see the Polish youth international slot in just behind Coquelin as the Frenchman’s deputy in that role if not next season, then surely the season after.

No truer words have been spoken when people claim that’s it’s always excellent to have two strong options at everyone position, but sometimes having too much quality that is not man-managed effectively enough can actually be a bad thing, and with Wilshere’s position amongst the first-team in the long term looking to be coming increasingly under threat, it could very well be time to consider other options.


 The Final Solution

As I cite another conversation I had with my friend Jake, it’s important to take note that I have no hatred towards Jack Wilshere what so ever, but I certainly consider myself to be a realist.

Yes Jack is young and he could very well fight through his injury concerns (though when you’re pigeon-toed, ankle injuries are always going to be a massive issue), but the truth of the matter is that age is never a legitimate reason to keep a player – his contributions to the success of the first-team is all that matters when push comes to shove.

When you look at clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and the big three Dutch clubs as examples, it’s obvious that all of those clubs have let plenty of talented youngsters go.  Usually it’s when they have a new batch ready to be brought up, but it’s also not rare to see young players sold for a hefty profit.

Transfermarkt has Wilshere’s market value sitting at 22million pounds.  Can anyone truly say that if someone came in with a bid between 20-25million pounds that we should turn it down?  Even if the team that makes a move for him happens to be City, United or Chelsea, it’s surely an option we’d have to give strong consideration to.  A good, solid player when he is fully fit, but the key word in that statement is “when.”

If I am honest, I love his dedication and devotion for the club.  But considering the fact that we are overloaded in creative players that he has zero chance of pulling ahead in the pecking order, his abhorrent injury record over the past five years, and the wealth of exciting talent we have waiting in the wings, it could be time to cash in the check and allow him to be someone else’s injury problem.

Age and love of the club are all well and good, but that is never reason enough to keep hold of a player who has a question mark constantly surrounding his career (see the Diaby situation).  From a pure footballing perspective, for me, Jack Wilshere’s time is running out.  Either he finally begins to come good on all the promise, or it’s time to thank him for his services and help him pack his things.  Like anything involving football…time will surely tell.

Written by Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson

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