Jack Wilshere is playing football again, but the question remains: what is his best position?
Two questions have persisted throughout Wilshere’s career. One is about his fitness and whether he can remain injury free. The other is about where on the pitch he’d be the most effective.
The 25-year-old is back playing football again, having overcome his latest injury problem. There is, though, continued debate about where he should be playing. Arsene Wenger has used him mostly as a left-sided attacker in his 3-4-3, but has occasionally used him in the middle of the park as well.
Central midfield is where Wilshere made an impact at Arsenal.
His breakthrough into the first team came as a partner for Alex Song during the 2010/11 season. It was in this position that Wilshere would carry the ball through the midfield, giving Arsenal an extra dynamic in attack. However, he was frequently fouled, and took a lot of kicks to his ankles. A long-term injury ruled him out of the following season.
When he returned during the 2012/13 season, the days of Wilshere as a central midfielder were, effectively, over. He played as a number ten that season, then played on the right flank during 2013/14. As Arsenal’s squad changed, and Wilshere spent more and more time on the sidelines, it became a case of getting him into the team wherever there was a vacancy.
Wilshere’s current role in the team suits him well.
When the team attacks, he has license to drift inside and run at people without fearing a turnover in a dangerous area of the pitch. His sharp turns and tight ball control can open up defences, while he can also link-up with his fellow attackers high up the pitch.
In defence, he’s required to defend the left flank, which keeps him away from the congested centre where he’s more likely to hurt himself in the tackle. As willing to put a foot in as he is, defending has never been his strongest skill.
For Wilshere to play in central midfield again, he must have the security of a holding midfield player. His marauding runs forward leave gaps in the middle. In a midfield two, this often leaves Arsenal with just one player protecting the middle of the pitch.
It’s an option for Arsenal, but not one to plan around.
To get the most out of his skills, to minimise his weakness and to protect him from more injuries, Wilshere should play in attacking role, either on the flank or behind the striker.