Jack Wilshere watch: How did the Arsenal man do for England against Slovenia?

Steve Tongue assesses how Jack Wilshere got on against Slovenia

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The Independent Football

With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard gone, Jack Wilshere has assumed a pivotal role in England’s midfield this season.

Passing

For both club and country, Wilshere seems destined to be played in front of the back four more than behind the striker(s), where he once seemed more effective. England’s coaches send him video clips of Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo to study and he is learning about not giving the ball away when in deeper positions. At Wembley his passing‑short and longer‑was impressive, especially when clipped diagonally for Rooney and Welbeck.

Tackling

Sitting deeper means his defensive ability is more important than for many creative players. His tackling, while not quite Paul Scholes-like, can be wild. Here he used the slippery pitch to slide into his challenges, generally winning the approval of the referee.

Finishing

No chance, or chances. Because of the essentially defensive role, opportunities to improve his scoring record are infrequent. He has scored 12 goals in more than 150 games for Arsenal and none in 25 for England, where he seems to have less encouragement to go forward. Perhaps his best chance is to become a penalty taker.

Fitness

In a first start for three and a half weeks, it would not have been unexpected if he had tired towards the end. Longer-term, is Wilshere injury-prone? Carrying the ball invites challenges and it is a bad reputation to have, leading to some cruel jokes when he became an ambassador for St John Ambulance three years ago, while missing 15 months’ football with a stress fracture of the ankle. There was a hairline fracture of the foot as well last season. 

Verdict

Having featured in every game last season and started all five in the current campaign, Wilshere finds a lot expected of him in international football. It always has been. He is only 22 but it is time he became a more influential figure in the role that Roy Hodgson and Arsène Wenger want for him‑without losing his creativity.

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