Ah, the dreaded England debate.
England have always produced top quality players with “world class” labels attached to them but none, in my opinion, with the same promise as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.
In recent years, England flopping at major tournaments has become an uncomfortably regular occurrence. Numerous opinions abound why we underperform.
For me, it’s simple. In the past, England have always produced big power house-type players and solid back fours, and emphasised the defensive side of our game. But what we’ve consistently lacked are creative players like Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder and Ozil who can win a game with a moment’s brilliance.
Lampard, Gerrard and Barry are, of course, all top players for their clubs, although I have my doubts about Barry! But I just can’t help thinking that they are helped massively by the technical talent around them. Would Stevie G or Lampard be as successful playing for a lesser side like Stoke or Wolves(all due respect to them) with not as many creative players alongside? I don’t think so but then again, that question could be levelled at most footballers.
Arguably, to unlock a defence and win things you need someone with the jinking runs and clever little through balls that Jack Wilshere is capable of producing, adding more continental flair to our play. At club level those named above, and other English talent, are helped vastly by the imported players around them – Silva, Nani, Nasri and Malouda, all of whom would walk easily into the England side.
The sign of a truly elegant, class midfielder is one who creates time on the ball – the game just seems to slow down when they are in possession. This quality is a technical one, which has sorely been lacking from English players over the years.
The most outstanding exponent of this footballing art form has been Paul Scholes and previously, Zinedine Zidane. It may be a bit soon comparing the youthful Wilshere to those masters but his talent is there for all to see – in Wilshere we have a young apprentice with a magical presence. He is capable of unlocking a defence, going on a jinking run and keeping the ball, in a calm and elegant manner. We’ve seen it many times in his short career already and he is still only a young lad of 19, remarkable really. Other great English players of that type have been Hoddle, Waddle and Gazza but they are no longer around.
I guess what I am trying to say is we need to stop producing “battlers” and ball winners with a tough style of play and fierce reputation. I am not against players like that – every side needs them – but what’s needed is the right balance, at all levels, especially in a team that’s trying to compete with the best in the world.
Some may be thinking “steady on” and feel that I am jumping the gun and being too harsh on our current crop of stars. But for me, Wilshere’s emergence is a positive sign that we are finally changing our style of play and employing players with the technical ability that we have so desperately lacked in the past.
I haven’t come to this opinion based solely on 45 minutes of football in Denmark. What’s impressed me is Wilshere’s blistering displays all season at such a young age. And he’s not alone, with other talented creative young players also emerging through the ranks of our junior international teams. This can only bode well for the future of the English national side.
If Jack Wilshere isn’t a world-class player in a few years time, I’ll eat my hat… and my shoes.
By Nico Lloyd – AFC Wimbledon fan