My first sight of Jack Wilshere was in a reserve game against West Ham on Arsenal TV (whilst Setanta were still going). He put in a ‘Dennis Bergkamp like’ performance and scored a goal that had DB10 written all over it. (In the same game I was also impressed by JET who partnered Diaby in the centre of midfield and looked a better player than Diaby too!)
(Goal approx. 1 min 20 secs)
In the summer of 2008 Jack was given some first team action in pre-season. I took my (non-Arsenal supporting) brother up to the Emirates Cup that summer and told him that Jack was one to watch. Against Real Madrid Jack came on for the last 15 minutes and my brother couldn’t believe some of the tricks he tried – it was obvious that he was a talented player and not intimidated by the superstars he was up against.
If I had any concerns that Jack Wilshere would make it at Arsenal it was his size and the fact that I considered him to be a forward, facing competition for places from Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott and Nasri. I couldn’t see him getting many first team opportunities and I worried that his slight figure would mean that he would struggle physically in the Premiership.
In the couple of years since then, appearances in pre-season friendlies and mickey mouse cup games, Jack’s low centre of gravity and willingness to get stuck in showed that he could cut it playing with the Premiership’s big boys. I still didn’t know how he’d ever get a chance to play in the first team.
This summer I was at the Emirates Cup when Jack played 90 minutes against Celtic. I was keen to see both Jack and JET (who I have also kept an eye on since that reserve team match against West Ham) in action.
Going into this season it looked like Emmanuel Frimpong was seen as cover for Alex Song. Frimpong’s injury, along with injuries to both Song and Fabregas meant that a central midfield slot needed filling. Jack was given his chance and hasn’t looked back since. My concerns about his size and physical presence have certainly be proven unfounded and he now seems to be our most physical player!
The third midfield slot alongside Song and Cesc has been up for grabs for a while now, with neither Diaby or Denilson taking their numerous opportunities. Jack now seems to have made that midfield place his own. Whilst his position isn’t really that of a holding midfielder, he has taken on a lot of defensive responsibilities. For someone who started out looking like a Dennis Bergkamp, in my eyes he’s now looking more like a David Batty – and that isn’t a bad thing!
The week Jack has shown some immaturity with his sending off against Birmingham and great maturity in the way he took his goal in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. In both games Jack made tackles that led to criticism, the same criticism that used to be levelled at Patrick Vieira when we were bottom of the fair play league and top of the Premier League at the end of the season in 2002. I hope Jack doesn’t change his ways too much, it is nice having another midfielder who isn’t afraid to put himself about a bit. He’s fast becoming one of my favourite players at the club and the latest of Wenger’s gems!!!