Skip to content

England’s Jack Wilshere insecurity surfaces again after performance in Ukraine

Sep 11, 2013, 7:27 PM EST

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

England’s obsession with Jack Wilshere‘s born from his singularity. At least, his singularity in England. The Three Lions have produced their Steven Gerrards and Frank Lampards, but Jack Wilshere’s supposed to be something more akin to somebody you’d see at Barcelona, which is why Pep Guardiola’s 2011 assessment continues to be brought up.

The then Barcelona boss, complimentary of the Arsenal talent’s skill, also put England’s Wilshere awe in perspective:

“Wilshere is a top player. He is an excellent player, not just Arsenal, but also for the national team. [But] he is lucky because we have many players in the second team like him but he plays because there is no pressure at his club to win titles.”

That Guardiola was responding to a question from English media about the then 19-year-old’s quality also speaks to the obsession. English soccer identity isn’t going to live or die with his success, but their culture will sure feel better about itself if Wilshere lives provides a return on their emotional investment.

Knowing that helps explain why Wilshere’s health is always headline news, as it is today. One day after England’s “awful” performance in a 0-0 World Cup Qualifying draw at Ukraine (Gary Lineker’s words), Roy Hodgson was forced to make excuses for his young midfielder, explaining that fitness played a part in Wilshere’s performance.

Wilshere started but was brought off in the second half. Whereas he would normally be expected to be among England’s most prolific and accurate passers, the Arsenal midfielder completed only 16 of his 24 attempts. His three turnovers where the most on his team.

From The Telegraph, in an article headlined “England manager Roy Hodgson defends Jack Wilshere form against Ukraine, saying: ‘he’s still not 100 per cent'” the led the paper’s online sports section:

“Jack is still looking for full fitness,” said Hodgson. “That is why we took him off in the second-half.

“We certainly saw a much more effective Jack against Moldova, but he still did his work against Ukraine and, tactically, did all the things I asked of him.”

Against Moldova last Friday, a 4-0 win at home, it’s all good. Wilshere’s fine. The team looks good. Four days later, the team’s in Ukraine playing a much more difficult opponent, and Wilshere’s now completely fit. At least, that’s what gets discussed in public when we need to explain why Wilshere isn’t performing like the English Andres Iniesta.

source: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere missed the 2011-12 Premier League season with an ankle injury but returned to make 25 appearances in 2012-13. Despite one goal and nine assists in 65 career Premier League appearances, Wilshere remains the subject of much hope and attention in England.

If Hodgson says so, we should take him at his word. Wilshere is almost certainly not 100 percent. At the same time, is Wilshere not allowed to merely have a bad game? If her was fit enough to start against both Moldova and Ukraine, to what extent should fitness be used as an excuse? Isn’t it better to say that Wilshere, though not fully fit, is capable of playing better, yet against Ukraine, he merely had a bad game? Or is he not permitted the same ups and downs as a normal player?

Consider some other headlines around England on Wednesday. One calling for Hodgson to get more out of his midfield is fair, though it may be reading too much into one match’s result. Another said Wilshere’s not ready for international soccer, something I’m assuming wasn’t evident on Friday, while England were winning. Another sees Wilshere as fighting to fulfill his promise, which is curious pessimism coming from the same optimists that created this tension.

The whole conversation is absurd, particularly considering Wilshere’s only 21 years old. He has plenty of time to develop into a legitimate star, but given the undo hype around him, there’s a paranoia that surrounds every Wilshere performance. His apparent brittle physical state doesn’t help (playing only 25 games over the previous two seasons), but the underlying causes remain the same. Wilshere is a very good player but overhyped, leading to these insanely paranoid conversations about his form whenever he doesn’t meet England’s potentially unreachable expectations.

As Guardiola said two years ago, there were players in Barcelona’s second team that rivaled Wilshere. That’s not a bad thing. One of those players (Thiago Alcantara) was bought by Bayern Munich for $33.2 million this summer. It’s not as if Guardiola was dismissing his talent. Yet that’s the quote many choose to remember, a choice made from a viewpoint that also worries about a down game in Ukraine and whether Wilshere will be the English Iniesta when he may “only” be Alcantara.

These are the type of narratives that get written by uncertain. Sometimes that’s labeled insecurity.  Chips on shoulders are also discussed. It’s why U.S. fans latched on to Freddy Adu and are constantly searching for their first soccer superstar. It’s why Barry Bannan was briefly hailed by Scotland, and why so much hope was tied into Aaron Ramsey in Wales. It’s also why you don’t hear these stories from places like Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Germany.

A lot of countries need a Jack Wilshere. They’re waiting for somebody to live up to the hype. But that doesn’t mean the hype’s fair. And that doesn’t mean conversations centered around one sub-par performance are completely rational.

Latest Posts
  1. New York City FC rolls out jet black road jersey; How’d they do?

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    @NYCFC @NYCFC

    These will be hot in the summer. But are they hot now? What do you think?

  2. Out with the old? Colorado declines options on Buddle, Wynne, LaBrocca, but won’t rule out returns

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:51 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Eleven players had their options declined on Tuesday, but Colorado says they could be back with the club in January.

  3. UEFA Champions League roundup: Chelsea win group, Man City’s late show, classy PSG

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:03 PM EST

    Recapping all the action from around Europe after a pivotal matchday in UCL play.

  4. West Brom, England striker Saido Berahino arrested for drinking and driving

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Berahino scored in the next match after his arrest, but has since gone cold.

  5. VIDEO: Robbie Rogers discusses new book, coming out on NBC’s “Today”

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    Robbie Rogers, Micheal Azira AP

    Rogers talked about how working with gay and lesbian youth organizations made him realize the impact he could make as an openly-gay player.

  6. Manchester City ready for almighty clash with AS Roma for last 16 spot

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:22 PM EST

    Frank Lampard Frank Lampard

    City’s late show sets up pulsating clash in the Italian capital next month.

  7. Manchester City 3-2 Bayern Munich: Aguero’s hat trick hands Citizens lifeline

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Citizens grab last-gasp win to boost their chances of making the last 16.

  8. Schalke 0-5 Chelsea: Blues with an untouchable performance against old boss

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Five different players netted as Chelsea picked up its largest road Champions League win since 1999.

  9. VIDEO: Luis Suarez scores first goal for Barcelona

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA

    Suarez is off and running for Barca with a goal of exceptional class. What else did you expect?

  10. Lionel Messi breaks Raul’s record for Champions League goals (video)

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The only other active players in the Top Ten are Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (44) and Thierry Henry (50), who obviously isn’t active with a UEFA Champions League club.

  11. João Moutinho reportedly hands in transfer request at Monaco

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Moutinho Getty Images

    With top-quality players hardly ever available in January, the Portguese international could be a hot commodity in England.

  12. Pele returns to the hospital days after kidney surgery

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:33 PM EST

    Pele AP

    A urinary infection has Pele in the hospital just 10 days after being released following surgery.

  13. LIVE – Champions League: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich, Chelsea to Schalke

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:55 PM EST

    Can Toure shine against Chelsea? AP

    Follow the latest batch of UEFA Champions League matches, right here.

  14. Toronto FC reveals more details of BMO Field expansion

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:05 PM EST

    BMO Field

    To be completed in two phases,

  15. Chad Marshall wins 2014 MLS Defender of the Year award

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

    Marshall AP

    “Air Marshall” not only earned his nickname, but helped to solidify an otherwise shaky back line.

  16. Report: Sony will not renew sponsorship with FIFA over future World Cup shroud

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:23 AM EST

    Sony2 Getty Images

    Another major move in the world of money, which is clearly what FIFA is most concerned with.

  17. Report: Victor Wanyama victim of burglary during Southampton match

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:41 AM EST

    Wanyama AP

    While away with the team on a road trip, the Southampton midfielder’s house was ransacked and multiple valuables stolen, including his car.

  18. Wenger says Jack Wilshere has a “big ankle sprain”

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:19 AM EST

    Wilshere AP

    Jack Wilshere will be out “for a few games” and will see a specialist after turning his ankle hard.

  19. Fire ravages building next to White Hart Lane owned by stadium opponents

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:26 AM EST

    Fire Getty Images

    A fire broke out in the one building standing in the way of Tottenham’s proposed new stadium, a fishy situation indeed.

  20. Bottom of the Bundesliga: Stuttgart brings in savior to manage again

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:03 AM EST

    Stevens AP

    Back after steering the club to safety last season, Stevens has a taller task ahead of him this time around.

Featured video

Week 12: Premier League recap