One of Jack Wilshere’s great qualities is his versatility.
Already for Arsenal this season, the 21-year-old has operated in the centre of midfield, on the right flank, on the left, and further up the park in a playmaking role behind the centre-forward.
Both the acquisition of Mesut Ozil and the rejuvenation of Aaron Ramsey have been responsible for his migration throughout the middle and attacking thirds of the park. But one thing Arsenal have come to expect is consistently effective performances from their No. 10 wherever he is operating.
On Tuesday, however, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger revealed the role in which he believed Wilshere is most effective.
“His best position is as a deep-lying midfielder, where he can be a distributor,” the Frenchman told the club’s fans in a Twitter Q-and-A. “He has a good burst and vision.”
Arsène says: "His best position is as a deep-lying midfielder, where he can be a distributor. He has a good burst and vision" #AskArsene— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 12, 2013
Over the course of his tenure with the North London giants, Wenger has become renowned for his ability to get the most out of players, so his view should not be taken lightly. And while there is obviously more glamour attached to the positions further upfield, it makes sense that Wilshere is best deployed a bit further back, where he can make use of the attributes cited by Wenger.
The England midfielder is, indeed, a fine distributor of the ball.
In the 25 Premier League matches he played last season, he completed 86 percent of his passes—the average for a distance of 17 metres—and created nearly two scoring chances per outing. He split the campaign between a deeper role alongside Mikel Arteta and one in a more attacking designation, just behind Olivier Giroud.
This campaign, he has created just 12 scoring chances in 10 matches and is passing at a slightly inferior accuracy. The majority of his minutes have been spent playing from the flanks.
The “burst” and “vision” characteristics Wenger cited are also useful in a deep-lying midfielder, but the 64-year-old might have mentioned something else: smarts.
Wilshere will only turn 22 in January, but he is already wise beyond his years in a football context. That intelligence and tactical nous is absolutely vital in the centre of the park, which is why it’s there that Wenger sees the youngster making his greatest impact over time.
It’s also there that Wilshere will end up playing much of his international football, and for exactly the same reasons.
What he has are unteachable qualities, intangibles most clubs have to pay for in order to acquire. Wenger understands this, and he’s the ideal manager to bring him along as he matures.
Statistics courtesy of Squawka.