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. City’s Pellegrini concerned at home form after Arsenal, Middlesbrough losses

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Britain Soccer FA Cup AP

    “I am concerned, not because of Chelsea but because we didn’t score in our last two home games,” Pellegrini said.

  2. Eto’o passes physical at Sampdoria, move from Everton all but official

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:50 PM EST

    twitter.com/sampdoria twitter.com/sampdoria

    The 33-year-old Cameroonian striker joins a Sampdoria side currently tied for third in the table with 34 points.

  3. Rodgers: Sturridge could face Chelsea in League Cup, certain to be back for Saturday vs. West Ham

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:13 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Getty Images

    “If he’s not ready for Tuesday then he’ll be back, for sure, against West Ham next weekend,” Rodgers said.

  4. Scotland, Wigan mid joins Chicago Fire as third Designated Player

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:22 PM EST

    twitter.com/chicagofire twitter.com/chicagofire

    Maloney turned 32 on Saturday and will be unveiled by Chicago on Monday.

  5. Sepp Blatter keeps talking trash at UEFA regarding FIFA election

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    FBL-FIFA-BALLONDOR-AWARD Getty Images

    Sepp Blatter: Kind of like “The Godfather”. But let’s be clear, we’re talking “The Godfather: Part III”.

  6. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Valencia win in top-four battle; Juventus grow title lead to 7

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF

    There’s a new top-four team in Spain, while little has changed in Italy, both for good and bad.

  7. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Congo, Equatorial Guinea victorious in group finales, advance

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:28 PM EST

    Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea

    Two of eight quarterfinals places were clinched on Sunday as the late drama continues at AFCON 2015.

  8. Wenger confirms move for Brazilian defender is “very, very close”

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    Paulista Getty Images

    A work permit still must be obtained, but Arsenal is on the cusp of securing some defensive depth.

  9. Alexandre Lacazette injured at the worst possible time

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:07 PM EST

    Lacazette Getty Images

    With 10 goals in his last six games, all of that is coming to a screeching halt.

  10. FA Cup Roundup: Upsets halted with West Ham, Villa, Arsenal wins

    Jan 25, 2015, 12:54 PM EST

    Rosicky Getty Images

    After yesterday’s FA Cup craziness, things were restored to normal today as all three Premier League sides went through, despite some nervy moments.

  11. Standard Liege fans get “traitor” Steven Defour sent off

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:43 AM EST

    Defour Getty Images

    Anderlecht fans responded to their former player – now with their arch rivals – in a very mean way. Defour reacted accordingly.

  12. Pogba scores again, four in four, and Juventus keeps on churning

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:46 AM EST

    Pogba Getty Images

    Four goals in his last four games has Paul Pogba on top of the world.

  13. Aston Villa announces Fabian Delph extension before FA Cup match

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:16 AM EST

    Delph Getty Images

    Aston Villa secured the services of midfielder Fabian Delph, and while that should have been an exciting announcement, the club blew it up a little too much and it fell flat on its face.

  14. Report: Roma stalling on Salah could allow others to pounce

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:23 AM EST

    Salah Getty Images

    Mohamed Salah just needed signatures to make him a Roma player, but now the Italian club could be headed in a different direction.

  15. Rodgers says Balotelli needs to vastly improve before playing for Liverpool

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:52 AM EST

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Which is Balotelli and which is the practice dummy? It sounds like it’s harder for Brendan Rodgers to tell every day.

  16. Radamel Falcao’s agent: I wish Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, not Louis van Gaal

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United Radamel Falcao & Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

    The bitterness is flowing freely from Falcao’s agent as he plots the Colombian striker’s next move to a “world’s best-seven team.”

  17. Italy head coach Antonio Conte supports Sebastian Giovinco’s move to MLS

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus Antonio Conte & Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus

    If MLS is good enough for Italian national teamers, why isn’t it good enough for U.S. national teamers?

  18. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona, Madrid clubs win; AC Milan continue to free fall

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    Lionel Messi and Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Barcelona were stunning as they put a half-dozen past Elche, while Real stumbled to victory. Elsewhere, AC Milan are very bad.

  19. USMNT U-20s defeat El Salvador, 2-0, qualify for 2015 U-20 World Cup

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EST

    FIFA U20 World Cup Trophy Tour Auckland Getty Images

    The Baby Yanks are headed back to the Big Dance this summer.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22