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Playing Jack as DM midfielder: is he the beast?

By Walter Broeckx

In an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday under the header:  “Jack Wilshere: I want to play in holding role for Arsenal like I do for England, but Arsène Wenger will not let me”.

Now that is what I call an interesting question. Could he? Would he? Can he? Will he?

Playing Jack as a DM midfielder raises a few questions. But can we find conclusive answers for them.

To play in the Defensife Midfield role for Arsenal it takes different levels of skills depending on if you are a supporter (and even then we have two sets of mind) or depending on being the manager.

Let us start with the supporters. As that is the only way most of us look at football.

For some a DM has to be “the beast”. +6ft and no need of a brain as long as you can run around for 90 minutes like a madman and kick the opposition to shit during that. If that brainless madman also can keep the ball in the team or play a good pass is of secondary importance for them.  As long as we have a tough tackling beast they are satisfied.

If we look at those criteria I don’t think Wilshere will be good enough. Wilshere is not that big. In fact he is even smaller than I am and I am certainly no giant. Ok, I do admit there is only 1 cm difference between me and Jack but I never would be considered to be the beast of a DM so in that way Jack will not be good enough.

Of course we know that Jack doesn’t shy away from a hard tackle every now and then. And he could be a bit over the top on times also. But come to think of it he seems to have cooled down a bit on that part and that will probably come from getting a bit older (still very young of course from the point in the time line where I stand).

Other supporters of the team find that we don’t need the beast that much as long as we can keep Arteta fit. I know this seems to be a bit of a problem this season. Arteta isn’t the beast DM. No he is the intelligent DM. Making small fouls when needed. Running where he should run. Using his head. Linking up play between the defenders and the attacking part of the team. Keeping the ball moving so that the opposition cannot get it.

What good is it to win the ball with a tough tackle (that usually gets punished if it is done by an Arsenal player so you give the ball away) and if it isn’t called back by the ref than the beast kicks it out of play or loses it again as he is not that gifted in playing a good pass out of defense like Arteta can.

I know there is a big split in opinion on this between Gooners and as I have said it before if we can find a +6ft DM with the tactical know how and technical ability that Arteta has we should buy him now. But apart from maybe Pogba I don’t see anyone who will fit that bill.

What kind of DM would Jack be? I think he will be more one like Arteta. Because first of all he isn’t +6ft so he will have to use his head and legs more than his frame to play it. We all know that Jack can keep the ball moving and play a good pass. But for the moment he still has a thing that needs to be worked on before he can play that role well enough as required. He still runs too much with the ball at times. If you do that just outside the opposite penalty area and lose the ball you might not get punished.  Do that in front of your own penalty area and you will get punished a few times.

Another question we should ask is if Jack has the discipline to play that role. Jack has always been an attacking minded player. Always going forward, trying to go to the other goal. But as a defensive midfielder you have to keep yourself in check. Of course you can join in an attack when you can. But that is the whole point: knowing when you can and when you certainly shouldn’t go forward and join the attack.

So if Jack would play as a DM he would have to make a complete switch in his head. No more looking at where is the gap where I can attack. But looking at: where is the possible gap if we lose the ball now and can I cover that? Can this be done just like that?

Maybe the answer is hidden in the article itself. And in the words of Jack himself (if we accept that it is a real transcription of what he actually said) written down in the article. I quote:  “Asked whether he feels he should be playing his England role for his club, Wilshere replied: “Yes, but the formation we play at Arsenal is a bit different. I wouldn’t mind playing it at Arsenal and I’ve already spoken to the manager about it, and he doesn’t see me playing that role just yet.”

So that is the answer to it I think. It probably has crossed Jack and Wenger their minds and we can guess they have talked about it. But given some of the things I mentioned in this article Jack is not really ready to take that role in every game. Maybe learning the job from Arteta for the next seasons could be the best thing to do for all involved.

It might be worth having a shot at it in the future and in a way Arteta did the same when he came to Arsenal and started playing deeper. But at that moment Arteta was already a bit older and wiser.

I’m not saying a definite no to Jack playing as a DM for Arsenal but I don’t see it being done right now. But never say never about the future.

Untold Arsenal: the index

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The books

28 comments to Playing Jack as DM midfielder: is he the beast?

  • hunter13

    but if our midfielders and strikers have possession wilshere dont need to tackle all the time but play as sweeper/commander…ramsey is the chaser /ball winner and combo with acm’s

    since there is no vieiera to do everything on his own and we can sit back and relax, and since there is no other vieiera around to purchase..and since the role of dm has changed and is mostly shared between two we are lookign at jack being the neat and tidy busquets ( and can learn from arteta) or we follow the prilo-vidal combo but we cant cause we dont have a cesc(anti-pirlo)

    we will try to emulate, i think, the triplet of neat and tidy busquest (jack or mikel) with the bxb iniesta ( ramsey) and the playmaker who has to be ozil or santi or rosi till the german gets back.

    on the flanks youplay the turbos theo and sanchez and up front danny or oli…were set and ready woohoooo

  • gouresh

    Simply, NO!!!! Jack the lad is a lovely attacking player and at this stage of his career I’d prefer him in the oppositions half.

  • Charlie

    I agree with hunter13 and you just need to think back to Alex Song to see what happens when a player suited to the DM role lacks the discipline to keep his position. Song cost Arsenal points by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Arteta and Flamini have the discipline to stay where they need to be but Flamini has been desperately disappointing and Arteta is at an age where he cannot be expected to play every game, even if he wasn’t it is essential to have a reliable backup. Rather than change the roles of Ramsey and Wilshere who are very effective in the roles that they play a new player is needed similar to Arteta. Winning the ball and not losing the ball is what Arteta specialises in without necessarily creating or scoring goals. Wilshere’s biggest problem is that he loses the ball by running with it too much and if he continues to do that he would make a terrible deep lying player because you cannot take risks in that position.

  • hunter13

    heh…ill be the bone of contention…

    at this stage of his career where he is still young and erratic and gets pissed of easily i would not put him in advance midfield role where he will be targeted by oppositon dms and fouled/stopped all the time and psyched out…..when he is 28-29 and a fully developed player and personality we can have a re-look. By then he would hopefully have got rid his over the top englishness and become more cultured/continental in his style/approach and yes give him the kaka/bergkamp role all you want…

    right now, he is the typical bulldog with tons of fighting spirit and he is using his bursts and timing to win ball ala song. in other words, mentally, he is getting it! the requirements of his role compute with his brain right now and it comes out easier and more naturally to him. that is what i see at least. and improtant to remember that wenger sees ten years ahead, we dont…my words have to do with jack right now, wenger off course is talking with the future in mind.

  • insideright

    The thing about having a ball playing/dribbling/passing DM is that when we do have the ball he can move forward and be a contributor to the attack. Maybe even a goalscorer.
    Purely defensive midfield players (think Petit, who was moved fro the back line to the midfield) don’t tend to do that.
    It’s also worth noting the article on the AFC website at the moment that talks about changes to how tackling needs to be done there days. It’s much more about anticipation and interception – very much how Arteta does it and until he goes (next summer?) or is treated as second choice it’ll probably stay that way.
    Height is largely only important when defending set pieces – and a big centre forward to call back is rather more important in those circumstances.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think the boss should play Jack Wilshere at DM against d RedDevils on Saturday. Jack may not be a 6 footer beast of a DM. But he has progressively shown he can successfully play a DM as he trice played it for Roy Hudgson England team. Arsenal have been porous at DM since d season began. Arteta & Flamini are no longer in their prime. I agree they hv experience which counts. But their experience is not bailing dem out of their porouses as Arsenal hv bn conceeding goals dat should be haulted by a seasoned DM. But having said this, Let the boss hv a plan B to immediately deployed it shld Jack failed to live up to his request to play at DM. U mentioned Paul Pogba. Can Arsenal afford his price? Both the Jeventus asking price and his wage demand? Arsenal could bid for him during d next summer transfer window. I don’t think Arsenal hv the money to buy him during d coming Jan window. But as they used to b signing a high profile player in d summer, dey may sign him. I think AFC shld loan Poldi to WH & take W Reed.

  • abe

    i think that jack could do it in a few years but not yet would love to see that polish kid play for us . i watch a few games and clips and he looks like a young viera mixed with a xabi alonso and the aerial ability of a tony adams

  • WalterBroeckx

    F*ck me, look at that on arsenal.com http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20141120/jack-how-i-analyse-and-learn-my-role

    I’m going to be the next Arsenal manager 🙂 😉

  • Jerry

    I like the way Jack plays in the deep role for England, but I remember quotes in the past that Wenger prefers he plays more advanced because of his creativity and technical ability. Wenger has also made statements in the past in regards to Ox playing a deeper role when he is 23 – 24. Think we have our future dm already on waiting. Going to be interesting watching these young players develop at Arsenal!

  • Menace

    The greatest DM Arsenal had was Gilberto. He had the ability to steal the ball and pass it simply. The fans didn’t appreciate his play and wanted him out. He was one of Arsenals greatest players with simple football. Jack can get to his standard by being smart and selfless. The trick is to get rid of the ball quickly. Defensive players do not have to be creative but it helps if transition is quick. Jack has shown his eye for a long pass and with the pace we have, he can effective.

  • para

    I think the boss is coming up with a new system to incorporate the players he now has, and i would love to see them kick start it from Saturday onwards and through the rest of the season.

    Looks to me like there will be at least 3 different types of DMs we can play.
    We already have 5 different type “strikers”, Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud, Sanogo, Wallcott.
    Now look at the midfield, all becoming interchangeably fluent.

    So to me the team looks good, and I have not even mentioned the injured yet. It just needs to click, all the new training and BOOM, we’re off.

  • SouthernGunner

    Jack’s a similar size to Claude Makelele, so it’s not always about size & stature.

  • Nicky

    I wouldn’t like to see Wilshere in a D/M role at Arsenal. He is not a Vieira, he is short-tempered, retaliatory and would be tempted to join in any attack.
    Arsene is right to play him as a A/M.

  • sam

    i bet giroud and sanchez are going to link up against manchester, i think they can be good together

  • sam

    wilshere would play anywhere wenger told him to. wilshere can play anywhere he puts his mind to

  • hunter13

    btu its exactly cause he is short tempered that he shouldnt be in areas where he will get kicked ….. and command play that is in front of him rather than playing with back to goal (wenger 2013)

    when we say to put him in dm role we are not telling him to be a davids ….more like the neat and tidy arteta/busquets ..jack is faster and stornger than arteta right now and he shows better ability in stealing ball ala song used to do to vieiera

    plus ….wayne rooney has owned arteta in quite embarassing ways …not so easy against jack who will have no problem kicking the fat git with the wig and then sticking his face right up to his..soemthing arteta would never ever do.

  • hunter13

    *ala song used to do rooney * …sorry

  • hunter13

    if you want to see wilshere exceling as playmaker you have to wait for him to develop and understand deep aspects of the game that cesc had mastered for example even as a teenager….first of all to be a playmaker you need to be clam, cool and have superb technique vision and fool opposition like zidane/bergkamp/kaka could ..those attributes need to hit 9/10 ..jack is at 6/10 for playmaker right now but a solid 7.5-8/10 as dm/anchor/busquets/arteta type.. if that makes sense

  • Ishengoma Bomani

    I love Jac very much coz of his love and readiness for Arsenal.
    His height is not an issue because to be short like Jac doesn’t mean you’re limited some roles.
    Issue here is his attaching mind bust between players.

  • I suspect that as the seasons roll by we will see JW play in a variety of roles – and he certainly has the ability to excel in all of them. At the start of the season he was excited by the prospect of adding more goals to his game, and the peach against City seemed to suggest that this might be his attacking year. A niggly injury saw him out for a few games (can’t remember what injury, but I guess someone kicked him)and that forward momentum was lost. And then along came a few games for England and suddenly he is the darling of the English press because he sprays a few seductive passes and looks after the ball nicely (without having to do any real defensive work. It is no wonder he suddenly thinks that deep-lying role is the one for him, because like any youngster he is enjoying the adulation, especially when you recall that it wasn’t so long ago that he was being criticised for having got England knocked out of the World Cup, despite being overlooked for selection because of the media’s fixation with Henderson. I think that for the time being Arsene will have looked carefully at all that has gone on, play Arteta and Ramsey at the back and look to play Jack in an Ozilish role for the time being.

  • Nicky

    @Hunter 13,
    The first paragraph of your 5.49 sums up exactly why Arsene doesn’t play Wilshere as a D/M.
    He would be targeted for yellows and reds from Day One.

  • Marcus

    Comments asking for Wilshere to be our holding midfielder? Not for me. A few good performances for England doesn’t justify it. You need a lot more for that role. He has played that role a couple of times for us at AFC to which, he wasn’t at his best. So lets not get to the stage of blaming Wenger for everything here, as he did try.To me, Wilshere seems to have died out ever since I saw that young lad dominate teams with the likes of Song and Fab by his side. I think he tries too many dribbles now and loses the ball too easily. Who else saw the clip of Gary Neville trying to tell Jack to take his headphones off at the ground? Jack acted slightly childish and not bothered. It’s that type of attitude that needs to change and to take things seriously. At this moment for club, he is on the decline. I hope he does get back to his best.

  • Andy Mack

    As Menace Said, Gilberto was our best recent DM and he was not a ‘beast’ he was a clever and talented footballer who knew how to cover /close down space, had a decent tackle, usually knew when to foul and a very good simple passer. Jack has some of those abilities now but not enough. He’ll learn more but we don’t have the time. If any one of the others can do it now, it’s Ramsey but he’s much better used as the B2B MF.

    I think AW will either get another experienced B2B player and convert them or convert a defender.

    As a side issue, I know he’s not available to us (at any price) but unfortunately Matic is a very good footballer and a good DM.

  • Pat

    It’s good that Jack and Arsene are talking about this question (as we might expect) and that Jack appears to accept Arsene’s judgment that it is one for the future possibly.

    It’s also good that he is studying other players and thinking about how their qualities and performance compare with his and how he can improve.

    It’s quite annoying that the media appears to be trying to use the situation to give the impression that there is disagreement between Jack and Arsene even though this is not born out by what Jack actually says.

  • Micheal Ram

    I believe Arsene Wenger mentioned this early season (or it is last season?) that Jack’s best position according to his talent is deep lying playmaker. So I’m not really surprised at his performance with England. He was right all along. Now, that idiot Paul Merson says Jack should play ahead of Flamini and Arteta. Jack played numerous times in that last line of midfield last season and his mistakes and inexperience cost the team. I’m just he needs more time playing in that position so he can learn more about the straights and the curves of that position. Remember, Andrea Pirlo? He was actually atrocious playing for Inter in a attacking position. Never the athletic player, he was slow and weak, got brushed off the ball uncountable times. I know this because I frequently watched Serie A in those days. He got loaned back to Brescia the season before he went to Milan. There, Carlo Mazzone played Pirlo in the deep to accommodate Baggio in attack. The rest was history. Anchelotti saw his potential and got him to play in the best midfield foursome in the football history, in my opinion. Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Clerence Seedorf and Kaka complimented each other like no other.

  • Will

    The problem is, Vieira, Petit, Edu and Gilberto were some of the best all round midfielders this country has seen. So, all midfielders will be judged on their standard and to me, that is an almost impossible one to reach.

  • Charlie

    Fact is defensive requirements in the Premier League are significantly greater than what has been required against the opposition that England have faced in qualifying. If he can excel in that position against world class opposition I might be convinced but the fact is that against the likes of Slovenia, Estonia, San Marino or even Switzerland you don’t need a defensive midfielder in the true sense. Away in the Premier League you do.

  • bob mac

    Arsenal normally use a MF system with only 1 DM and 2 attack minded MFs, Jack is selected as one of the attack minded.

    As and when required he could also double as a DM, making it 2 and 1 instead of 1 and 2.

    All that is beside the point, Arsene knows better than anyone else when and where to play Jack and that decision should be left in his more than capable hands.

    Arteta is by far the best DM in the PL