ANALYSIS: Does Jack Wilshere still have a role to play at Arsenal?

“For many years now the one position England have not struggled with is world-class midfield players – Scholes, and then more recently Lampard and Gerrard and now I see Wilshere as the future of English football, that is why it is so important they keep him fit.”. These words were not uttered by a deluded Arsenal fan but by the legendary midfield maestro that is Xavi.

But does he still have a point on Wilshere, or is the England midfielder now a lost cause?

Back in 2011,Fabio Capello once dubbed Jack Wilshere to be a future England captain, an opinion backed up again by Steven Gerrard in 2013. However, with the midfielder’s career seemingly at a crossroads, large question marks loom over what Jack Wilshere, and more importantly Arsenal, should do next to resurrect his stagnating career…

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Many Arsenal fans still cling onto the famous Wilshere performance against Barcelona in February 2011, with the then 19 year old outshining arguably the greatest midfield trio the game has ever seen – Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. And whilst, since then, there has been nothing but a sorry tale of inconsistency and injury, there is a case to be had for keeping Jack Wilshere at Arsenal this season.

Arsenal’s lack of high quality, central midfield depth is clear for all to see. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey began to form a blossoming partnership in central midfield towards the end of last season, but both these players are vulnerable to needless suspensions or innocuous hamstring injuries respectively, which would inevitably plunge Arsenal into their perennial annual midfield crisis.

Question marks also still remain over the ever-cautious Mohamed Elneny and the somewhat rash Francis Coquelin, both of whom lack that dynamism and quality to drive an attack and help Arsenal mount a genuine title challenge.

Jack Wilshere has attributes only matched by Santi Cazorla in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield – the ability to transition quickly from defence to attack with a sudden burst of pace and low centre of gravity. Such skill can be utilised from the bench against stubborn yet tiring defences, which Arsenal often struggle to break down, or in secondary competitions such as the Europa League and League Cup.

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With Arsenal competing on 4 fronts and probably travelling long distances within Europe this year, adding to the depth in central midfield can only help, and Jack Wilshere can certainly still play a very meaningful role here.

So, apart from what Wilshere potentially brings technically to enhance Arsenal’s midfield attacking prowess, why should Arsene Wenger absorb another year of risk on an injury prone player so clearly on a downward trajectory away from his early promise?

Firstly, the midfielder has been at the club since he was nine years old, and has a loyalty to and love for Arsenal rarely seen in these days of “player power”. Secondly, given his poor form and luck over the last two years, he does not expect to be in the starting line up every week, unlike many of his higher ego peers.

Thirdly, as a product of Arsenals youth academy, Wilshere is relatively inexpensive if he can finally fulfil his true potential. Finally, he is a massive favourite of the fans and Wenger could do with ingratiating himself a little more with the fans he claims to serve.

So, with an already somewhat limited depth in central midfield and no further signs of transfer activity at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has a ‘free option’ at his disposal. He may as well use it.

Written by Lukas Jennings.

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