There is no doubt that Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is a brilliant footballer. Heralded as the saviour of English football by many his technical ability is perhaps second to none when it comes to young English midfielders. One of his major attributes is that ability to find space almost at will anywhere on the park and a passing range to rival some of his more illustrious Spanish rivals. It all sounds familiar and the comparisons with Paul Scholes are definitely not far off.
Another area of the game in which the two are remarkably identical is their tackling. They are both awful at it. This is not necessarily a problem as Xabi Alonso once said the idea that tackling should be considered a skill is almost a ridiculous notion in Spain. The two are great readers of the game and they often don’t need to find themselves flying into tackles.
However both Wilshere and Scholes do like going in for a tackle, usually with terrible effects. It is not with malicious intent but often they find themselves going in with legs all over the place and committing seriously dangerous fouls on opponents.
It isn’t however these tackles that is the biggest worry but the accumulative effect of the little niggling late ones. Paul Scholes was the first England player to be sent off at the old Wembley Stadium against Sweden after picking up two needless bookable offences. Wilshere did the same at Old Trafford the other weekend and if we are all being honest he was lucky to still be on the pitch when he was finally sent from the field of play (in defence of Arsenal as was Tom Cleverly).
It is not a serious issue but considering the immature career Wilshere has had so far to have been sent off on two occasions already is slightly worrying especially as he doesn’t seem to have a malicious bone in his body.
He should not lose any of that enthusiastic bustling energy he displays in the centre of the park but when going in to engage players he could perhaps take a leaf from the book of Owen Hargreaves, himself not a blessed tackler, who always preferred to harry a player almost basketball style to avoid making rash tackles and picking up senseless yellow cards.
Wilshere is just 20-years-old and will have plenty of time to learn these things but now when we look back at Scholesy’s career the only blip is his tackling proficiency. Would it not be great if in fifteen years’ time we can’t say such a thing about Jack Wilshere?
I think so.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald