How Jack Wilshere Can Prove He's an Ace in the Pack for Arsenal Once More

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2015

HULL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on as Jack Wilshere of Arsenal prepares to come onto the pitch during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on May 4, 2015 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

As Jack Wilshere sets out on yet another comeback, there is a sense that this is the most significant to date. Once the darling of the Arsenal fans, off-field indiscretions and inconsistent form have seen patience worn thin.

Wilshere is 23 now, no longer a novice, and he has arguably yet to improve upon his first run in the team as a teenager. Now is the time to step up and deliver on his undoubted potential. A starting spot may be some way away, but that doesn’t mean he won’t prove to be hugely valuable from the bench.

It’s clear he has the support of his manager. Wilshere’s injuries have led to him becoming such a marginal figure at Arsenal that there had been some speculation he would be sold.

However, Arsene Wenger has refused to countenance such a move, per Sky Sports: "Jack is an Arsenal player. I believe the success of the club in the future years will depend on how well the young players educated here will do, and he is part of that."

When Wenger handed Wilshere the hallowed No. 10 shirt, he was effectively identifying the midfielder as a symbol of the club’s future. He clearly regards him as an integral member of the squad, as demonstrated by his attempts to squeeze him in to the first XI via a 4-1-4-1 formation in the early period of the season.

HULL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on May 4, 2015 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If Wilshere is to have the desired impact on the field, he needs to settle into a style of midfield play. Even in the course of this season he’s played wide, as an advanced playmaker and even turned out as a holding player for England.

Wenger seems to have settled on how best to utilise Wilshere, telling the club's official website (h/t Squawka): “His strength is in the final third, offensively. That is where he really expresses his talent.”

We saw that when Wilshere made his long-anticipated return to the first team against Hull City. He was used wide on the right-hand side—a role he occasionally occupied as a teenagerwhere he could use his powerful, proactive dribbling to wreak havoc in the opposition penalty area.

Wilshere is a player who makes things happen. Although he is occasionally accused of inviting dangerous tackles with his surging runs, it would be impossible to take that out of his game. His instinct is to drive toward defenders, constantly gaining ground or forcing a foul.

That talent is best employed around the penalty area, where defenders are hesitant to lunge in for fear of giving away a spot-kick. Wilshere’s brittle body might not survive in the midfield maelstrom, but in the final third he could flourish.

That seems set to be his role for now: an impact substitute who is brought on to terrorise tiring defenders. It makes sense. By doing that, Wilshere can slowly build stamina and confidence. A sub who can be relied upon to change the dynamic of a match is a huge asset to any manager.

Wilshere could yet be the ace in Wenger’s hand, but he may choose to keep that particular card up his sleeve for now. However, if he can become a regular difference-maker from the bench, Wenger will be forced to find a role for him in the starting XI.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.