Skip to content

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

Sep 11, 2013, 7:27 PM EDT

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. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-0 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:37 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

    The playoffs look a might big ask of RSL, as they sit rock bottom, 10th place, in the Western Conference.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 2-1 Sporting Kansas City (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC & Vicente Sanchez, Colorado Rapids

    Three losses in a row for Sporting KC, and the team with the highest points-per-game total is slipping in the West.

  3. Premier League Sunday preview: Man United looking for revenge vs. Swansea City

    Aug 29, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, Manchester United FC Getty Images

    Man United fell twice at the hand of Swansea City in 2014-15. On Sunday, Louis van Gaal takes his crack at revenge.

  4. MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-1 Montreal Impact (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    Michael Bradley, Toronto FC Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

    Michael Bradley powered TFC to a 2-1 victory in the 401 Derby, and essentially locked up a playoff place in doing so.

  5. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 1-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mix Diskerud, New York City FC Mix Diskerud, New York City FC

    NYCFCs struggles continued on Saturday, as they lost to a very poor road team in Columbus Crew SC.

  6. VIDEO: Which of James Rodriguez’s stunning goals is better? Is it the free kick? Bicycle kick?

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez, Real Madrid CF Getty Images

    James Rodriguez scored two filthy goals on Saturday. We need your help deciding which one was more impressive.

  7. Bundesliga wrap: Aussie magic helps Ingolstadt shock Augsburg (video); Bayern, Mainz roll

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT

    Bayern's Arjen Robben, center, celebrates with teammates Thomas Mueller, left, and Arturo Vidal after scoring  his side's third goal from the penalty spot during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen 04 in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) AP

    Bayern Munich continued its strong start to the Bundesliga campaign, and will be the only team to boast a 3-0 record unless BVB beats Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

  8. Pochettino: Tottenham “much better than Everton,” but nothing to show for it is frustrating

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur FC Getty Images

    Being the “better” side is a subjective thing, of course, especially when you fail to win.

  9. Premier League roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool suffer stunning home defeats

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Catch up on all the action from eight games on Saturday, as there were plenty of shocks in the PL.

  10. Arsene Wenger: It was difficult playing up a man, but “vital for Arsenal to win today”

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Getty Images

    Arsene Wenger isn’t panicking over another close call against Newcastle United. The way he sees it, they did well to win 1-0 on an own goal.

  11. Tim Howard ready for USMNT return, as heroics rescue Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Tim Howard Tim Howard

    With Howard back in a U.S. jersey next week, he put in a Man of the Match display to grab Everton a point at Spurs.

  12. Three things we learned from Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

    Aug 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Here’s three things we learned from the Lane.

  13. Tottenham 0-0 Everton: Howard stands tall as Toffees weather Spurs storm

    Aug 29, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    Howard Getty Images

    Spurs attacked for much of the match but were held off the scoresheet by American goalkeeper Tim Howard.

  14. Brendan Rodgers says both Liverpool and the referee struggled at Anfield

    Aug 29, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    The Liverpool manager was disappointed in the Reds play but also criticized the referee.

  15. Mourinho praises Crystal Palace after shocking Chelsea loss

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho gave lots of credit to today’s worthy opponent, but did stay somewhat true to his nature.

  16. Stoke City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Nine-man Potters downed by Rondon

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:04 PM EDT

    Afellay and Adam sent off as Baggies down Potters on Pulis’ return.

  17. Bournemouth 1-1 Leicester City: Foxes stay unbeaten thanks to late Vardy penalty

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:01 PM EDT

    AFC Bournemouth's Charlie Daniels, right, and Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez battle for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, England, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)     UNITED KINGDOM OUT    -    NO SALES     -    NO ARCHIVES AP

    Artur Boruc got a piece of Vardy’s penalty attempt, but not enough. 1-1.

  18. Aston Villa 2-2 Sunderland: Visitors battle back for point at Villa Park

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Brad Guzan of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on August 22, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Yann M’Vila and Jeremain Lens scored for Sunderland, with Scott Sinclair striking twice for Aston Villa in between.

  19. Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace: Blues stunned at home by Eagles

    Aug 29, 2015, 11:54 AM EDT

    Mourinho loses second home game in 100 PL matches as Chelsea boss.

Featured video

Premier League, Week 3 review