November 15, 2018, 1:21

Jack Wilshere’s search for top form goes on at West Ham while England crave midfield creator

Jack Wilshere’s search for top form goes on at West Ham while England crave midfield creator

Gareth Southgate is in search of a midfield creator but Jack Wilshere is out of the England frame. WhoScored.com take a closer look at his start at West Ham and chances of a national team recall…

In a week in which Gareth Southgate has stated that England’s only world-class player capable of controlling the midfield in his lifetime was Paul Gascoigne, Jack Wilshere’s demise since breaking onto the scene has been brought into focus.

Wilshere is out of the England frame right now and travels with bottom-of-the-table West Ham to Everton for a game his new side will be desperate to win, live on Sky Sports Premier League, after losing their first four of the Premier League season and with matches against Chelsea and Manchester United next up.

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Wilshere was one of nine signings made by West Ham to help Manuel Pellegrini cement them into the top half but, like his team-mates, he has struggled to hit the ground running.

Wilshere’s switch to West Ham ended a 17-year association with the Gunners, where he burst onto the scene as a teenager, making 31 Premier League starts in 2010/11 and being considered as his country’s bright midfield hope for the future.

Southgate described his former team-mate Gascoigne as having “supreme confidence” to “receive under pressure” and “dribble past people, pass past people”, all traits associated with Wilshere. But the 26-year-old has not yet come close to realising his potential.

A large part of that is down to a string of injuries that have meant he has not been able to play the same amount of minutes in any season as he did eight years ago. A modest stats-based WhoScored.com rating of 7.05 in that campaign remains the highest of his Premier League career to date and further highlights the fact that, regardless of his time on the sidelines, Wilshere has regressed in the years since.

Indeed, his performances for West Ham thus far have been very much par for the course from the midfielder over the past few seasons. In fact, a WhoScored.com rating of 6.82 is identical to his score from each of the previous two Premier League campaigns – the first on loan at Bournemouth before returning to Arsenal last time around.

He has shown moments of quality for his new club, but with the same lack of any great impact at either end of the field. Wilshere is a player that operates nicely in the middle third of the pitch, but has struggled to influence matches in the areas that matter most.

7:09 Watch Gary Neville's pre-season interview with Wilshere

A pass accuracy of 88.8 per cent this season is, in fact, his best figure in a top-flight campaign to date and the best of any English midfielder to start more than once.

However, admittedly stifled by the form of his team as a whole, his creativity has not been evident. Wilshere has set up just two chances for team-mates despite starting all four matches under Pellegrini, having averaged two per 90 minutes in his first full season at Arsenal.

It has become a worrying trend in his passing game for some time now, having declined year-on-year for key passes per 90 minutes since 2014/15 (excluding the 2015/16 campaign when he started just once).

One facet of his game that has never really tailed off, at least to the same degree, is his ability to dribble past players. Again, no compatriot has completed more in the Premier League so far (10), and Wilshere is the only player in Europe’s top-five leagues this season to have reached double figures without having been dispossessed once when attempting to take on an opponent.

His low centre of gravity and combination of agility and power has been both a blessing and a curse, allowing him to wriggle out of tight situations but also leading to numerous injuries from fouls, particularly to his ankles over the course of his career. He is a player that tempts opponents out of position and into challenges, which can be a real asset, but often to his own physical detriment.

As things stand, an England recall seems to be out of the question, with Southgate looking to the future rather than dwelling in the past. Wilshere is no doubt keen to do the same, but in order to become the player that the national team manager desires, he will have to start being a lot more bold in possession and, more pertinently, prove that his fitness is no longer a concern.

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