Emmanuel Petit: Jack Wilshere must improve physically, and protect his defence more

The former Arsenal centre-midfielder says that Wilshere needs to add more to his game before getting carried away with recent form...


Wilshere needs to improve

Jack Wilshere is a good player, but it’s imperative now for him to play regularly and to remain injury-free. He needs confidence, and the only way to do that is to be on the pitch.

When you get injured so often, you end up going back to square one each time. Jack must go for several months without injury in order to foster the confidence that comes with that.

He has the requisite quality and technical skill, as well as the vision and aggression, to play in central midfield for Arsenal. He’s capable of more than what he’s showing and what he has shown in the past.

But I’m not entirely sure about the partnership between him and Granit Xhaka. There’s no doubt Wilshere can be an excellent player – as can Xhaka. But he is always focused on going forward, scoring goals, and making passes for his team-mates.

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The balance is not quite right with Arsenal, and hasn’t been for quite some time. For me, the missing link is an extra holding midfielder. If you have two men in that role, they can both play box-to-box, be aggressive and try to win all the second balls. Your backline is secured.

Sometimes it seems as if Wilshere considers Xhaka the sole holding midfielder, and that he is personally responsible only for the transition and to act as a playmaker. But you also have Ozil and Sanchez in the team, so Jack must improve physically and think more about his defensive responsibilities.

He needs to protect his defence, and once that’s done, he can allow himself to go forward.

For years, Arsenal have had several very samey midfielders, and Xhaka is a great example of the type. He can be a wonderful player, but he loses so many balls, and is often very hesitant. Players need to have no fear of what can go wrong when they have the ball.

With Wilshere, it’s the same. When you’re injured, you don’t improve. It’s one step forward, two steps back. He needs to work more on the defensive side of his game, or his team won’t be balanced while he’s on the pitch.

Prioritising the Europa League

Arsenal can’t afford to choose one competition. They can’t focus only on the Europa League, but at the same time they can’t forget about it.

What Manchester United did last year is a good example of what Arsenal could do, but there are also very strong teams in that competition.

Are they capable of fighting on two fronts? It will be interesting to see if Arsenal are active in the transfer market. If I was an Arsenal player, I would consider each game as important as the next – I would never throw away the possibility of doing well in one competition in order to do well in another.

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What do you think?