Jack The Post-Modern Water Carrier?

Jack Wilshere made his first full international start for England last night and, despite a huge bias from this blog, he put in an assured performance. Previews of the game had suggested that Wilshere would be asked to play in a holding role, a description which conjured images of a gifted young creative force being reduced to carry water; a la Didier Deschamps.

The truth of the matter is that the 19 year old was never going to be deployed as a destroyer; rather as a deep lying creator who prompted and probed.

In truth, a partnership with Frank Lampard is probably not ideal for Wilshere. When he plays for Arsenal he has the athletic Alex Song who gets around the pitch with fantastic mobility. Lampard’s natural attacking inclination meant that Wilshere’s role was naturally more cautious.

You won’t find me agreeing with Gary Neville all that often but his views on the so-called importance of a cliched Defensive Midfielder appear to be far more accurate than many of the predictions and even reviews of last night’s England partnership.

Quoted in Paul Hayward’s Guardian column yesterday, Neville said:

“What happens in football is that there are trends. People see a Makelele and say – you need a holding midfield player. Well, do you? Man Utd won the European Cup with Carrick and Scholes as central midfield players. All of a sudden Makelele defines the Makelele role and everyone says you’ve got to have a Makelele. What you need is good players who recognise danger. The idea that you need a natural holding midfielder – I don’t go along with that.”

In fairness, Fabio did compare Wilshere with Makelele, however I imagine he was comparing the intelligence of the players.

A better example to use might have been the criminally underated Gilberto Silva. Whilst at Arsenal he was a target for Gooners who couldn’t quite identify what it was he did. For someone in possesion of such a Football brain, that would have been a back handed compliment!

The Brazilian World Cup winner was able to spot danger and usually snuff it out without having to make the attention-grabbing late lunges. The image of Gilberto sliding into cover a positional error is one that is difficult to bring to mind.

Whilst Wilshere doesn’t have the experience to play on that level yet, most would be confident that he does have the requisite nous to develop his reading of the game. Add to that his range of passing and a distinctly un-English understanding of Football as more than just passion and effort, and you have a player who’ll be a great asset to England in the deeper role he’s also taking on for Arsenal; albeit as a pivot under Wenger.

The talent is there, success for England may well depend on who plays alongside Wilshere.

For a typically insightful analysis of last nights game, and the Arsenal youngsters full debut, see Zonal Marking.