Position: Attacking Midfield
Date of Birth: January 1st 1992
Place of Birth: Stevenage, England
Previous Club(s): None
Coaches at Arsenal’s Hale End Academy – home of their junior ranks – had quietly known for some years what the wider audiences are now seeing. Jack Wilshere is very, very good. He first struck attention in 2007/08 as a 15 year-old averaging a goal per game from midfield for the Gunners’ Under-18 team. Such a rapid ascent meant by the end of the year, he was in the Reserves, continuing his eye-catching form with a lovely goal agaisnt West Ham.
At the end of his first season, the 16 year-old was promoted to Arsenal’s first-team squad for their pre-season, alongside a number of Reserve team players. Whereas the others were largely hit and miss, Wilshere was electrifying, terrorising Real Madrid during the Emirates Cup, and scoring against Stuttgart. His performances earned him the number 19 shirt and a place in the first-team squad, with a long-term professional contract to come on his 17th birthday midway through the season.
At home across the width of attacking midfield, he’s most often been used in the hole behind the strikers, or on the right side of midfield, where he can cut inside onto his talented (and very predominant) left foot. He can dribble well but not at exceptional pace, but his true ability lies in pulling the strings, picking passes, and moving into space for loose balls, from areas which he can score. He’s quite short and slight and can be bullied by bigger players, but as he gets older he will work out how to deal with those opponents, as his physique will never allow for suitable growth to match them.
After a stunning breakout year, 2008/09 was always going to be harder for Jack, and whilst it’s not been as good, to call it a disappointment would be unfair. He’s made first-team debuts in all four competitions Arsenal have played in, becoming the fifth-youngest Champions League participant ever, and has appeared at England Under-17 and Under-19 level. For the Reserves, he’s not been in such goalscoring form, appearing to struggle at times, as if his development between two teams has confused him at times. It most likely represents simple growing pains, as he pushes on for more regular appearances in Wenger’s first team. He’s at the perfect club to receive football at his age – which is still incredibly young, and something which makes his progress thus far even more astounding.