Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
There have been many youngsters who come through the England Youth Football system who are listed as “future stars,” but not many have been labeled as “the savior of English Football.” He scratched the surface by winning a few awards, namely the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Jack Wilshere has almost all of these labels, and at age 22, still has plenty of time to live up to the hype.
Wilshere was born in Stevenage, England to a family of West Ham fans. He grew up playing football, even captaining his school teams. His talent was apparent, and he joined the Arsenal Youth Academy at 9-years-old. Coaches saw his talent and leadership abilities and made him captain at 15 of the U-16’s. He continued to play up almost his entire youth career, excelling at every level, including the England youth ranks. Then, when he was 16, his career would change forever.
He began playing for the reserve team, where he would score two goals and contribute two assists in just three appearances, catching the eye of senior team manager Arsene Wenger. Wenger brought Wilshere into the first team over the summer for some pre-season friendlies, before making his debut for the first team in a Premier League match with Blackburn Rovers. Wilshere was only 16 years and 256 days old, which made him the youngest debutante in Arsenal history, with his first competitive goal coming against Sheffield United on a few weeks later. From there Wilshere was loaned to Bolton Wanderers for half of the 2009-10 season to get more first team action, returning to Arsenal at the end of the season. The next season (2010-11) Wilshere began to be a regular on the first team, playing in 35 Premier League matches, and 49 overall matches with the first team that season. An ankle injury marred is entire 2011-12 season, and he hasn’t played in that amount of matches in a season since. Signs are bright though, as Wilshere has featured in most of the competitive fixtures in the central midfield, while dodging the injury bug that has run rampant through the Arsenal squad so far this season.
Wilshere’s international career has been full of playing with groups who are older, starting when he was 14. To be fair, Wilshere was born on January 1st, making him the absolute oldest in his age group. Even so, the fact that he played well against players in an older age group was impressive. He made his senior team debut in 2010 against Hungary, becoming the 10th youngest player to ever play for England. His international career took a hit with his ankle injury, which basically made him nonexistent until 2013, when he returned to the national team. He did make the 2014 World Cup squad, coming on as a substitute in the Italy game, while starting the Costa Rica game. England’s World Cup was a disappointment, with the English failing to win a game in the group. On a positive international note, Wilshere and Wayne Rooney have formed a neat tandem during Euro 2016 qualifying, with some describing them as “telepathically communicating.”
Style of Play
Wilshere has mostly been a central midfielder, although he has been deployed in other positions, such as attacking midfielder, winger, and a deep-lying midfielder. Players and managers alike have lauded him for his movement, vision, and passing ability on the pitch, with Marco Reus even stating that he is the “perfect player.” Managers have also commented on his leadership abilities, with Arsene Wenger saying that he has the potential to be captain of both his club and country. Wilshere currently wears the Nike Magista Opus, similarly to other top central midfielders.
Off the Pitch
Wilshere is a known tattoo lover, having a sleeve on his right arm, with plenty others to boot. He has two children with his girlfriend Lauren Neal: Archie Jack Wilshere, and Delilah Grace Wilshere. He has had a few run-ins with the law, once being a peacemaker in a “fracas,” while being cautioned for spitting on a taxi driver for refusing to drive him home (the driver was wearing a Tottenham hat). He’s not all bad though, as he became an ambassador for St. John Ambulance in 2011. He is a known entity around the UK for good reason, while also being featured on the cover of the video game FIFA 12, alongside countryman Wayne Rooney.
He certainly has plenty of hype to live up to, but Wilshere seems up to the task. At 22, he has already had 6 Premier League seasons, but will need to take big leaps forward if he is going to live up to the title of “savior of English football.” This could be the season where Wilshere breaks out and has the season Arsenal fans are hoping he can have, and English fans are hoping so too. Either way, he will be a player to watch over the next decade.