On Black Friday Jack Be Nimble

Today is the traditional start of the Christmas Season in the USA and we celebrate the kickoff of that holy season with our favorite form of worship. Today is the day when the masses stand in long lines and patiently wait to pay their penance, ask for forgiveness, and take in the eucharist. This typically takes the form of buying something that is advertized as a ‘door buster.’

On this holiest of days I do my part to disrupt this sacred ritual. My favorite thing to do is to go to Costco, or really any big box store, and get one item. Then ask everyone if I can get ahead of them in line. Most people will let you ahead if you have just one item. When I get to the front of the line, I apply for a credit card.

This year, I’m going to get some granny smith apples. And when people ask me why I’m getting apples on the day after Thanksgiving I’m going to say “because I want to make apple pie, I really didn’t get enough apple pie yesterday.”

Even if you don’t want to throw a velvet monkey wrench into the system you should consider going to Costco to watch the carnival. Costco zombies pushing their carts down every aisle by leaning on them with their forearms, like a giant walker with a basket on front. Stopping at every sample tray to get a bite of some frozen taquitos reheated by a poor old woman who is still working after the age of 70 because she can’t afford to retire. Surely, there is no greater symbol of America than this.

Obviously, I don’t do anything like this at all. This is a country full of armed lunatics and there is no way I’m going to test their mettle on this day, the most frustrating day of the year.

I do, however, suggest that you go hiking. Or biking. Or take the family on a picnic. Or just watch TV. Read a book. Play a game together. Go out for drinks. Or pretty much do anything with your family and friends that’s not at all related to shopping. The stuff that you may want to buy will still be there tomorrow.  Or it will be on Amazon.com. Or you really didn’t need it anyway.

As for Arsenal, she will also be there tomorrow. I will do a preview of  Sunday’s match, tomorrow. I will give you this bit to argue over: Wilshere is 24 years old, assuming that he makes it through this season at AFC Bournemouth without another season-ending injury and gets a season of experience under his belt, how do you see Wenger integrating him into Arsenal? Please try to be specific about which partnerships you think would work best and why.

Also, take a moment to have a look at Barney Ronay’s idea that Wilshere could be a deep-lying playmaker. At this moment, the idea of Wilshere in the “Pirlo” or even the Xhaka role is pretty far fetched. He did have one good season at Arsenal with his long passing, completing 60/70 in the 2013/14 season. That is an excellent completion rate (one which he hasn’t come anywhere near since) but nothing like the level of passing from that position that we would normally see. For example, Xhaka completed 200/300 passes from the deep lying position on the routine before transferring to Arsenal. But more to the point is that Jack isn’t getting that practice at Bournemouth. He’s being asked to play higher up the pitch and has only attempted 19 long passes in 684 minutes at AFCB, completing just 12. That’s 1.6 completed long balls p90.

I appreciate Ronay’s love for Jack Wilshere and his rather hopeful assertion that Wilshere could be something different based on his body type and injury history but I think when we compare Wilshere to players of the same age, stature, and hype we see that Jack has a LONG way to go. Thiago Alcantara is already 73/96 long balls or 7.8 accurate long passes p90. If you look at Alcantara’s entire game though, he blows Jack away. Alcantara is the kind of player Wilshere should be compared to, that’s the level of player I think Arsenal need.  Ultimately, we would need to go up against them (or a club of their level) in order to win the Champions League, so having players of that caliber is essential.

Finally, Jack Wilshere will not play tomorrow because League rules prohibit loan players from playing against their main club.



  1. IMO Jack is not a long past but a ball carrier – he drives with a ball and Beats people (often getting fouled in the process and occasioning suffering crippling injuries) . This is important against pursuing teams as beating a midfielder and driving past another makes the defender lose shape
    Santi can beat a press and that is what arsenal lack right. If Jack can remain tidy in possession while occasionally making a good dribble and making key passes that would be his ideal role . He would need to up his long passing and positioning too .
    If he can stay fit and develop a partnership with Ozil and the winners .
    So many ifs and finally I can’t see who ideal partner is – arteta2.0

    1. Well, building on what you said, agreed that when you compare jack with current crop of arsenal midfielders, he is closest to cazorla. Albeit, without the experience, decision making, and positioning. And with better one-on-one dribbling, quicker movement, and greater defensive aggression. Assuming Ozil is No. 10 for the next few years, I think Wishere can be played in Ozil’s position as a backup player in case of injury/fatigue.
      As for a regular role, like Cazorla he can form a partnership with coquelin. But to play the deep-lying playmaker role while coquelin moves up the field to press will be a challenge. But he’s done that a few times with England, so maybe he can do it.
      Also, and a bit more unrealistically, I think Ramsey and wilshere could form a great central midfield partnership (with no one singled out as DM) if they’re willing to co-operate with each other and do a little more defense then they’re used to. What I like about that is that it makes our midfield dynamic and energetic, almost unpredictable. Especially with Ozil in front of them, who’s not known for his defensive skills or tracking back for the ball.

      1. “closest to Cazorla” just about justifies your comment.
        Better one on one dribbling? Sorry, no. Dribbling has to have an objective.
        Quicker movement? I see your quicker movement and raise you better positioning (Cazorla) and headless chicken taking on everyone at full speed once he starts dribbling (Wilshere).
        Greater defensive aggression? No clue what you mean, and it does not amount to much. And see “better positioning (Cazorla)” above.

        Sorry, please watch some more.

  2. I agree he’s not displacing Ozil at ten for us, but I do think he’s getting the most important thing he needs right now – game time. He won’t make a success of any position until he regains strength and confidence in his body. Assuming he can do that, I would be interested to see him next to Xhaka. They could move the ball quickly and with his dribbling as an option present the opposition with a number of different, complimentary threats. It’s his defensive consistency I’m more concerned to see him develop if he is going to play deep. Not every team has a Pirlo, and they can win trophies too.

  3. If, and that’s a big if, Jack comes back to the club next season and Ozil is still around, it’s pretty clear he’ll just be a squad player/backup No. 10 who will be asked to play out of position, will perform below expectations and then get injured.

  4. Wilshere could play at the base if he were good at interceptions, rather than being poor at tackling, which he is. He could play at the base if he was smart enough to release the ball at the right moment and get it again; this would make what he has, good dribbling skill, an asset and not an invitation for bad tackles near fragile ankles, which it is now.
    Would respectfully disagree with anyone who compares him to Cazorla. He has none of the elements that Cazorla combines so well – excellent vision and sense of what the game needs, two footedness and dribbling for effect not for show, accurate and Correct passing at all times, and a security offered through excellent positioning.

    1. I think people who think he can replace Cazorla, is mostly because of his dribbling ability and occasionally his Hollywood passes. I interpret Cazorla dribbling for effect as in Cazorla dribbling to get away from pressure, whereas Wilshere dribbling intention is to beat opponent. Which means Cazorla shines most against high pressing opponent, as for Wilshere, he probably good for counter attacking opponent.

      1. So you’re saying you generally agree with me, yes?
        I think your point about the kind of opposition is interesting. I just did not ever get the feeling that Wilshere understands the game, or teamwork, enough to ever be compared to Cazorla. He’s all about the highlight moment, although today Ramsey beats him to that one.
        I agree with 7am on what he says about Ramsey. He was better against PSG than in a long time, and I truly hope that what he did in midfield will be the bread and butter, because that was the basis of those 15 odd goals he scored in his breakout season. Now all he seems to want is those 15 goals. It’s saddening when players (and all of us in general in society too) lose sight of the bigger picture.

  5. I think you encapsulated the problem perfectly with the comparison with Thiago. Having Jack Wilshere means potentially losing a midfield spot with a better player than him. Not only that, there’s more chance of him injured again with us, if he played all of Bournemouth games. That’s how risky having Wilshere is. Nevertheless, if Arsene Wenger still our manager next season and with the current ability of our squad, Coquelin might be a good partner with him. Jack highly potential tendency to lose the ball, might be offset with Coquelin ability to intercept and tackle when we lose the ball.

    1. I’d be worried about our ability to move the ball forward with a Wilshere/Coquelin combo. I suspect opponents would sit deep to deny passing lanes then wait for Wilshere to attempt a Hollywood pass or an ill judged dribble to counterattack. If Wilshere is to succeed I really think he needs a passer alongside him. Xhaka or even Elneny might work, but Coquelin or Ramsay would be pretty disastrous IMO.

      1. But that is why I propose Coquelin as his partner, Coquelin will negate potential weakness of Wilshere. I didn’t see a passer, like Xhaka or Elneny, at their current ability to negate Wilshere weakness.

  6. I think everyone here forgets that we got Cazorla when he was very mature (28 IIRC) . I am not saying Jack is at Cazorla’s level now but that his role in midfield would be similar – beat the press , create space by pulling off defenders , make slivk passes . If you watch his games he already draws a lot of attention – he pulls defender out of shape and draws fouls .
    Right now Cazorla would be picked ahead of Jack anyday . In two years time I think Jack would be at his level if not better.
    The tackling and lost possessions aside , he can have game changing moments of genius and those Transcend all the stats in a way.

  7. I think playing to Wilshire’s current strengths? He hasn’t a place in the starting 11 today. If Wilshire is to have a big future at arsenal he needs to be patient and really coached into a star player. I really think he has the talent and desire. He does bring that element of chaos that we love Alexis for, he needs to be high up the pitch, he has to learn to drift between the lines like Ozil. If he could master ozils movement it bring his own brand of chaos with a bit more refinement he could be really something.

    That requires clear direction, patience, dedicated coaching, and most of all playing time, staying injury free.

    So I say Wilshire is a #10, him and Alexis swapping and dragging defenders about, causing chaos in the final third, with guys like Theo and chambo slipping through the madness to finish a lot of chances too.

    But he is years away from displacing Ozil.

  8. Indeed a tough one. What’s clear is that he’s immensely talented. (Which is why I’m not keen to have him sold) What’s also clear is that he does need to now go beyond that.

    Where he plays? I don’t know. It depends on what part of his game he most concentrates on. He’s a bit……..Jack of all trades… I can get the Cazorla comparison, and I think he makes a better no 10 option than Ramsey if both are at their best. But what I will say is that whenever I see Veratti play, I always think that is the player Wilshere should be.

    1. Agree with that. The player I think he should be like is the marvellous Ilkay Gundogan of Manchester City.

    2. Veratti, Gundogan, Mkhitaryan… the world is full of midfielders who are better than Jack Wilshere.

      1. Yeah, and so is Arsenal. Which is why he’s at Bournemouth. Unless we can get one of those in exchange, I don’t want us to sell Wilshere. He’s still young and has potential. But I am coming round to the view that perhaps he will choose to go to another club and we won’t fight to keep him.

  9. Jack’s clearly a hugely talented player but what is the one thing he does better than just about any other player? Despite not appearing to be a particular fast player, his ability to accelerate past other players and surge forward on the dribble is probably his defining characteristic. He’s also a good passer, particularly short passes and playing those little one-two’s to work himself into space. HIs best position kind of depends on where on the pitch you find those qualities most useful. It could certainly be useful in the final third to get into the penalty area and create scoring opportunities for himself and others. At youth levels, he was prolific in his ability to both score and create goals. He’s only shown flashes of that at senior level but if he showed that consistent end product he could give Özil a run for the 10 position. Early in his Arsenal career, Wenger consistently said that was Jack’s future position. If he doesn’t replicate that end product in the BPL, than a forward thinking box to box player would be his best position where Jack uses that skill set from deep to get us in the final third.

    1. Well said as usual, Tee.

      I think that Jack, a left footer, can be part of the regular XI on the left. He’ll get more goals and assists than Iwobi in a team like Arsenal. Not only do I think he’ll come back, but that’s where he’ll play. Comparisons with Santi are seductive, but his decision making (passing, releasing the ball, carrying it) is nowhere near as good. And he tackles like Paul Scholes — badly. He’d be a liability in the back of midfield, but is young enough to develop the attributes. If he’s not playing wide left, he’s better further forward where he has less time to overthink.

      About our midfield engine room in general, any dispassionate look at this would tell you that Wenger’s dilemma is that his chief firefighter, Coquelin, is limited in other respects. I’m looking now at a game involving 3 midfielders who are better — Wanyama, Dembele, and Kante. All offer something creatively or going forward. None is a Hazard, but they have more in their locker. Apart from that, Arsene clearly doesn’t know what his best combo is in Cazorla’s absence. I hope Xhaka develops the kind of defensive security that makes the coach comfortable playing him in the Coquelin role. Certainly he’s more defensively robust than Arteta, who performed well there.

    2. I don’t agree that Jack is clearly hugely talented. I think Jack was a promising young player who got injured and who likes to party. He is a decent dribbler but uncreative, his one type of dribble is that “surge” you’re describing – he basically kicks the ball ahead and speeds after it – and it’s the move that earns him injuries because he can’t control the ball and yet still lunges after it, often at the same time as his marker. He is so far below Özil’s level it’s not even fair to mention the idea that he could take Özil’s place, proof of that is in the fact that he’s not even anywhere near Bournemouth’s best player.

      If Jack Wilshere is Arsenal’s number 10 it means that 1) Arsenal have lost Özil to age or because he’s tired of playing with us and/or 2) Arsenal have given up on being a top quality team and are somewhere in mid-table.

      1. Spot on one the dribbling. Amazing sometime how bad his decision-making is in these “surge” situations. One of two things is possible. One, he has misplaced faith in his dribbling ability. Two, he’s injured so often, he’s not quite right with his body yet, and misjudges speed, spurt etc.

        Jack needs instinctive play — less time to think and take on the world. Ozil is in another continent in terms of ability, I agree. So I think his position long term is wide-left creator. He’ll play good combinations all day long with the left back, forwards, and whoever the surging midfielder is.

        The Wilshere of 3, 4 years ago who was playing every game allows me to keep faith in the notion that he’s a top level player. We’ll see.

      2. A few years ago, Jack was widely hailed as one of the best young midfielders of his age after cementing a place in our starting 11 at age 18 and a standout performance as our best player in a game against Barca. That takes talent. Subsequent injuries have stalled his development and prevented him from fulfilling his potential. At this point, I’m skeptical that he will ever fulfill his potential. He’s been pushed so far back in his development that he’s at Bournemouth to basically gain match fitness. The question was hypothetical no? Realistically, Bournemouth is the shop window for Jack. And in my fantasy world we use some of Jack’s transfer fee for funds to get David Alaba (latest Mirror transfer rumor). Sigh.

  10. Seems like ages Wilshire and Ramsey and now Ox who promised so much but never quite there yet in any kind of consistency, I always wonder is it the coaching or is it they are not listening. Do they ever apply some intelligence to their own development as a football player ?

    1. Well in fairness, it’s pretty hard to develop into an elite footballer – that’s why they are called elite, after all! All three have also had varies degrees of injury nightmares coinciding with what would normally be important development years – it might be the case that they never make up that lost ground.

      Beyond that I think they all have different mentalities that have hindered them in different ways – Ramsey got a bit seduced by glory-hunting and forgot to focus on the simple things. By contrast, Chamberlain seems far too self-critical and allows mistakes to play on his mind and damage his form. Wilshere tries to take on too much and this exposes him to crunching challenges more often than his ankles can take. That said, I’m not ready to give up on them, as even players with elite potential are pretty rare for non-oil clubs, as I don’t see many ready made superstars falling our way in the near future.

  11. Tim, one flaw in your post is that you don’t describe what is a deep-lying playmaker. The only characteristic you mention is the completion of long passes. To me, that’s not a key criteria for being a good deep-lying playmaker. In his prime, Xavi was the best deep-lying playmaker and he mostly made short passes (remember tiki-taka?).
    To me, a deep-lying playmaker should have those characteristics: 1. He controls the tempo. Keeping a high tempo to create gaps, or slowing the tempo to put the opponent to sleep; 2. He controls the space. Always available to help centerbacks play out from the back, he pushes the team forward with his passing when attacking, and he provides stability with his positional play when defending; 3. In terms of end product, he’s the one providing the penultimate pass (the assist to the assist) and occasionally makes the assist.
    Wilshere could definitely play as a deep-lying playmaker at Arsenal. There are obviously a lot of doubters, but let’s not forget that Wilshere is only 24 and had a couple of seasons taken away from him because of serious injuries. The issue has always been his fitness, not his ability. Even Guardiola was full of praise when he saw Wilshere play in 2011.
    Also keep in mind that Wenger likes to have versatile players: Wenger moved Petit from leftback to central midfield, converted wingers Henry and RVP into strikers, and played Song in midfield and at centerback. So Wilshere could play as a No. 10, on a wing like Pires or sometimes Ramsey, as a box-to-box player, or as a deep-lying playmaker. Defensive midfielder is the one position where Wilshere can’t play, so he really needs a ballwinner by his side (i.e. Pirlo with Gattuso, Xavi with Busquets, Albertini with Desailly).

  12. I had a look at the replies to the main post, and some of the comments are quite unfair. Sure, Wilshere is currently not at the level of Cazorla or Ozil. But Ozil is arguably the best No. 10 in the world and Cazorla, who will turn 32 next month, only became a deep-lying playmaker two years ago. I believe it takes time to develop a very good reading of the game. Think about Pirlo. Early in his career, Pirlo was deemed a decent player at Inter and Brescia but nothing exceptional. Pirlo was then sold to AC Milan and became the world-class player we know. The same could be said about Xavi before and after the 2003-04 season.
    Wilshere can’t dribble like Cazorla? You don’t need great dribbling skills to be a great deep-lying playmaker. Kroos and Xabi Alonso have worse dribbling skills than Wilshere.
    Wilshere is not a good tackler? Kroos and Pirlo aren’t good tacklers, but they compensate with their positional play. Wilshere will improve in that area.
    Wilshere is not creative? Not as much as Ozil, but when Wilshere is fit, he can see and make a great pass. Last weekend, Wilshere had 4 key passes including 2 through balls in Bournemouth’s 1-0 win over Stoke.

  13. Jack should play next to Xhaka with Jack as the box to box and Xhaka as the deepest lying midfielder with more defensive responsibilities. Xhaka is slowly coming to terms with the speed of the EPL, having seen the game yesterday against Bournemouth. He was simply our second best player after Alexis. Jack will have license to roam, try to break up the opposition higher up, and if he does to create immediately or link up with Ozil and Alexis. Coquelin in that role is effective breaking up but very limited in creativity and link up play. Jack will be much better. He may not be as effective breaking up play but he will certainly be a huge improvement once we get the ball higher up and the drop off in breaking up may not be that bad since he likes a few tackles.

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