13 September 2013

Almöst nöthing aböut Özil here—just Wilshere and his role...

Well, maybe a reference or two, but it'll be quick as we turn to the talisman, Jack Wilshere. Speaking ahead of Saturday's match against Sunderland, Arsène spoke of Jack Wilshere and the potential for "conflict" between he and Özil as two offensive-minded midfielders:
In midfield Jack Wilshere is more comfortable in deeper positions, and Özil more in a higher position. That’s why I don’t think they conflict...looking at Jack over the years now, he likes to come deep to take the ball and make a difference, and then give and go again.
As this preference of Jack's has begun to emerge, it's exciting to see him define a role for himself. As this role has took hold over the last season, Wilshere was involved in more Premier League goals than anyone else last year (according to Opta) even if it wasn't in the direct form of an assist or tackle. Lending credence to Arsène's assessment,  Wilshere has more-often been involved through the tackle that disrupts an attack and initiates our counter-attack or through the pass to the player who notches the assist—in other words, he "likes to come deep to take the ball and make a difference."

As wonderful as we've made Wilshere out to be, he's suffered a bit from being a jack-of-all-trades, and his versatility seems to have hampered his development. The at-hand comparison would be Aaron Ramsey, who was asked to play all over the pitch, out of position, and in roles that didn't suit his skills or temperament. Having settled into a more-defensive role, one that relieved the pressure of replacing Fàbregas as a creative midfielder. Now that Ramsey has committed to his role, we've seen him flourish to the point that he earned Arsenal's Player of the Month for a second time, once back in May and again in August, and he's already earned two MotM awards from whoscored.com (both against Fener).

With the arrival of Özil, Wilshere's apparent tendency to drop down deeper should be further encouraged, and his link-up with Özil could become a fulcrum that launches some breath-taking attacks. I can picture it: Wilshere makes a tackle in the middle-third that pokes the ball forward to Özil who sends a ball through defenders for Walcott to run onto at the edge of the box, and he slots it home, chips the keeper, or puts it back across the mouth for Giroud to finish.

As much as we've salivated over what Özil might make possible, seeing Wilshere define and commit to a role could see him find the form that we've only seen flashes of, bouncing back from injury in much the same way that Ramsey has. Between the two of them, Özil, and the stable of other midfielders we have, we could conceivably field six or seven midfielders and run opponents ragged, in imitation of the Spanish national team in recent years. More likely, though, we'll see the likes of Rosický and Arteta settle into supporting roles in coming years, if not this one. Even Flamini's tenure could be short-lived (he's already talked of a potential return to Marseille). With Ramsey and Wilshere at the base, Özil in the center, and Cazorla and Walcott running the flanks, we'd have a potent midfield indeed, one whose attacking trio was good for 35 league goals and 40 assists  (including Özil's La Liga stats). With Cazorla and Walcott each looking to build on their fine seasons, Ramsey carrying momentum into this one, and Wilshere forging his fitness and his role, this could be quite the season.

Not bad. After a few weeks of overdosing on Özil, it's well-worth remembering that we already have some pretty fine players waiting to greet him.  I managed to keep the Özil references to a minimum, didn't I? Sure, his name appears a dozen times, but they're quick asides, aren't they? This is a team, after all, and we'll only be as good as the weakest link. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, Saturday could give us insights into whether this squad will rise above that to become something greater than the sum of its parts.