In case you did not know, Jack Wilshere was one of the bigger snubs from England’s 23 man squad for the upcoming World Cup. He and Liverpool’s Adam Lallana are the two biggest names that will be watching their compatriots from the warmth of a living room or pub as they digest the disappointment of not making the team. So what exactly did happen for Jack Wilshere not to get the invitation?
I am likely one of the few people on this site who likes Jack Wilshere while still understanding that he has not been great. My love for Wilshere originates from the feeling he gave me during my teenage years. The Barca game at home where he played midfield maestro. The love he has for the badge. The “What do we think of Tottenham?” chant at the FA Cup parade. I am a huge Wilshere fan, but I know that what he did this season was just not enough despite strong reports of a 3-year contract extension for the midfielder.
Before I dive into this piece any further, let me prelude with this: a lot of the criticisms of Wilshere that I have seen range from vague comments like “he isn’t very good” to even more vague comments like “well he just sucks”. I will attempt to avoid those generalizations that don’t really mean much in terms of evidence-based facts.
When I analyze why Jack Wilshere did not make the England squad, it comes down to 4 things.
Jack Wilshere and injury go together like cheese and wine. Since the 2009/10 season Jack has racked up 1,013 days missed due to injury. This equates to 2.78 years and 155 matches missed due to a variety of injuries, mainly involving his legs that just cannot stay healthy.
Wilshere made 20 Premier League appearances this season, 8 of which were appearances as a substitute. He racked up 1,187 minutes on the field for Arsenal. This means Wilshere only appeared in just over half of the games that Arsenal had throughout the season. While still a fair amount of time was seen on the pitch, most of the reason we didn’t see him for the other 20 games was due to being injured or coming back from injury.
When the world cup comes around next month, the 23 man squad will have to be as healthy as possible. There is just no guarantee that Wilshere’s body will hold-up. In a team that is already light in terms of midfielders, losing one to injury could be disastrous for the 3 Lions. Injury is more prevalent as well with England, which brings me to my second point on Wilshere’s omission...
Gareth Southgate’s Managerial Style
Southgate’s managerial style and his preferred 3-4-3 formation requires a lot of hard work from his players. Southgate’s preference of a back 3 means that a lot of physical exertion is asked for from the midfield 4. Possession-based, play the ball out of the back, and a deep-lying defense are some of the tactics that Southgate likes to put into action with his squad.
With a front three that will be in charge of the offensive side of the game, the midfield four need to be hard-working and defensive-minded to a certain extent to ensure that England are not overrun on a counter-attack.
The injuries and the physical toll of Southgate’s style on a player could mean that Jack becomes injured during the tournament. With concerns that England will be left with little options at the World Cup, Southgate could not take the chance on Wilshere.
Wilshere’s Style of Play
Wilshere’s style of playing just does not complement Gareth Southgate’s coaching style.
Wilshere prefers to play a more forward-thinking role in the midfield. You will notice in his appearances for Arsenal, he loves making those deeper lying Lampard-esque runs into the box. This can prove to be fatal if the defense is able to catch him up-field. WhoScored describes Jack Wilshere’s strength’s as “Dribbling, Through Balls, Passing” but notes that his weaknesses are “Crossing, Finishing, Tackling, and Defensive Contribution”. The last two weaknesses are what I believe really left Jack off the plane to Russia.
Without the ability to play box-to-box, the way Wilshere plays football just does not fit with the England squad under Garth Southgate.
The Alternative Options
The midfield for England is not the deepest part of their lineup to say the least, but the alternatives to Wilshere are better options to complement Southgate’s coaching style. The chosen midfielders are as follows:
Out of those 6, only Lingard and Alli are what I would refer to as “attacking midfielders”. To be fair to our most bitter rivals, both had better seasons than Wilshere. Lingard contributed 8 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League while Alli put in 9 goals and 10 assists. Compared to Wilshere’s 1 goal and 3 assists, it is easy to see why Southgate preferred Lingard and Alli to Wilshere for the 23 man roster.
In addition to offensive output, all of these players played at least 575 more minutes in the Premier League compared to Wilshere, with Loftus-Cheek being the closest one to him at 1,875 minutes.
Delph, Henderson, Dier, and RLC will hold together the more defensive part of the game with Alli and Lingard being the primary attacking options for Southgate. Alli and Lingard will have to be cognizant of their defensive responsibilities despite their attacking motivations. But that shouldn’t be an issue for Lingard, who plays on what could only be described as the most anti-fun team in all of England.
It was tough to see Wilshere omitted from the squad, but it is clear why it happened.