Jack Wilshere wasted no time. After his absence of over a year, people thought that Arsene Wenger would ease the young prospect into the lineup. Some even thought that the promising youngster would never be the same again, just like his teammate Aaron Ramsey following his injury.
Wrong. Wilshere went straight to the point. The second he stepped onto the pitch, there were the same qualities we saw two years ago: the toughness, the technique, the fearlessness and, of course, the heart.
The Englishman's first senior appearance in 17 months was in the 1-0 win against Queens Park Rangers in late October, and ever since then he has been as impressive as ever, having played in 16 EPL games since then.
It's unlikely that any Arsenal fan will doubt that the bearer of their number 10 shirt has been their best player following his comeback. One could even add the term "far and away" to that claim and defend it easily. While his other teammates are often uninvolved or inconsistent, Wilshere is always there.
He is also an instrumental part of both the attack and the defense. He may not be the fastest player in a 100-meter dash, but his instant acceleration is comparable to the likes of Lionel Messi. One minute he's jogging with the ball, but as soon as a challenge comes, Wilshere is gone. He is able to stay on the ball due to his great strength which allows him to create chances.
Although he has been playing further forward than he was prior to his injury, his ball-winning skills are as good as ever. Before he came into the team, Arteta was the one putting in the challenges in midfield, but now Wilshere does it just as much: he isn't scared of anything as he plunges into 50-50 tackles (Arsenal fans are the scared ones, since he sometimes picks up bookings or minor knocks.)
In the words of his England teammate Steven Gerrard (BBC Sport):
"He can tick almost every box, and he's going to get better and better. He'll get better than he is now which is a scary thought...Jack has got a bit of everything. He can tackle, get up and down the pitch, create a goal, score a goal, he can pass. I think he's got the potential to become one of the best in the world and I don't want to add any pressure."
Naturally this provokes the question: could he, at the tender age of 21, be the most complete player in the Premier League?
Some of the most elite attacking midfielders in the league are David Silva, Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Moussa Dembele, Eden Hazard and the list goes on. But they aren't really in consideration for the most complete because they aren't as good defensively. The opposite is true for the likes of Scott Parker, Cheick Tiote, Michael Carrick and a few others.
When I think of complete players, my first thought is Yaya Toure. He is, like Wilshere, a ubiquitous presence on the field on both sides of the ball. The Ivorian possesses qualities that are similar to Wilshere's, but he has more height and is thus a greater threat in the air.
Another complete player is Marouane Fellaini. How can you forget the Everton number 25 whose hair causes him to stand out? The Belgian is just as physical as Yaya Toure, not afraid to put in a tackle here and there, yet also possessing great offensive skills.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard fit into this category as well; Gerrard has been complete for a long time, but Lampard went forward much more in the early stages of his career. It is now that he has been moved into a more defensive role.
Who is the most complete midfielder in the EPL?
If we're discussing the most complete midfielders in the Premier League, these are the four that would challenge "Super Jacky Wilshere" for that title. At this point, 34-year-old Lampard and 32-year-old Gerrard have been surpassed by the youngster, who is getting better by the minute.
However, Yaya Toure and Marouane Fellaini are a little bit above Wilshere right now. All three are equally good defensively, but Toure and Fellaini are better finishers, which—along with their heights—gives them an advantage over Wilshere.
The problem with Wilshere is that he seems disinclined to shoot. He had a beautiful goal against Swansea in the FA Cup, but he has scored just two goals in all competitions (in 23 appearances) and zero goals in the Premier League (16 appearances.) That strike against Swansea should convince anyone that he should shoot much more, but in his 16 EPL starts he has shot just seven times, with only three of them on target.
Meanwhile, Fellaini has ten goals in the Premier League so far and Yaya Toure has four—which isn't much better, but still a difference. However, both of those players are legitimate scoring options for their sides, which can't be said about Wilshere.
So finally, I would say no. Wilshere is not the most complete midfielder in the Premier League. He is definitely in the top few, but the superlative does not belong to the young Englishman. But just wait: in a few years, he will be not only the most complete, but also the best midfielder in the league.