Yesterday England played the first of their qualifying games for the Euro 2016 tournament. The Three Lions have been handed an easy group, with minnows like Estonia and San Marino standing in their way. They took on the amateur team of San Marino and won by a 5-0 scoreline, but the experienced professionals of England can and should have done better against the joint lowest ranked team in the world.
The Arsenal team was the best represented, with Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck all playing. And while all of them turned in pleasing performances, the main point to be noticed was how Roy Hodgson kept shifting Jack Wilshere around.
The Gunner is undoubtedly worthy of his place in the side, and is probably England’s best central midfielder now that Gerrard and Lampard no longer feature for the national side. But with the England manager’s decision to play a diamond formation, Wilshere has to play out of position.
He has thus played as the attacking midfielder, as the deep midfielder and even out on the left wing. All manager Roy Hodgson needs to do now is decide where he fits in and give him a run of games in that chosen slot. In Basel he was tremendous in the holding role of Hodgson’s midfield diamond to help set the platform for England’s impressive 2-0 win, and thus most expected him to continue in that role itself.
But for last night’s game at Wembley, Wilshere found himself shunted out onto the left while James Milner took the position he’d occupied against the Swiss. The manager’s decision was explained by him in his programme notes:
We are always trying to find ways in which we can get the best players on the field in positions that suit them.
Quite why he thought Milner would be better than Wilshere in a holding role is tough to understand. Even for Manchester City, Milner plays on the wing and impresses regularly. Giving him the holding midfield position and Wilshere the wing seems like an unbalanced decision at best.
Wilshere looking lost on the left wing, and the whole team failed to really get going in the first half with Hodgson’s men having to rely on two set-piece goals to give them an uninspiring 2-0 lead at the break. The manager finally saw some sense at half time, and when the team emerged after the break, Wilshere had been given his preferred position at the base of the diamond.
The second half was a massive improvement, and the team finally managed to score from open play. An all Arsenal goal saw the Ox cross in for Danny Welbeck to score his 11th goal for England. In this half, Wilshere was much more of an influence. Though he had worked hard in the first half as well, he is simply not as good out wide.
Wilshere is at that time in his career where he needs to pick a position and settle into it so as to play quality football. Hopefully Hodgson will realize that and play the midfielder in the holding role where he has impressed. Such stability will help Wilshere to finally realize his immense potential and become a mainstay for both Arsenal and England.