Jack Wilshere – England’s future holding midfielder?

Fabio Capello spoke last week of his admiration for Arsenal’s young midfielder maestro Jack Wilshere, labelling the teenager “the future” of the national team. Few who have seen the 19-year-old play this season would disagree with the statement, such is the midfielder’s quite obvious talent. What would’ve struck a cord with many who have watched the player this season is how Capello went on to state that he saw Wilshere occupying the holding midfield role in his side, before going on to compare the Arsenal man with Claude Makelele – the player who is regarded as almost creating the holding role at Real Madrid and Chelsea.

The analogy seems strange on numerous levels. First of all, Capello rightly points out that Wilshere is a better technical player than the Frenchman, although admits he loses out in the physical stakes. But what made Makelele such a fantastic asset in that position was his ability to read the game and break down opposition attacks, as well as starting his own team’s forays forward by finding gaps in between the opposition’s strikers and midfield, and move the ball on to a more creative member of his team. It was for so long an unsung hero’s job, but his influence and effectiveness in the role was vital to Jose Mourinho’s hugely successful rein at Stamford Bridge.

With Wilshere, it seems using him in such a position will restrict his excellent playmaking abilities and bursts forward. Wilshere is a player greatly gifted with the ball at his feet – with quality both in passing and fleet-footedness causing numerous problems for opposition defences. Using him in an anchor role would deny him the freedom to use his prowess in areas that could hurt the opposition. Indeed, the anchor role is largely there to create freedom for players of Wilshere’s ilk. At Arsenal, Wilshere’s all-round ability allows him to operate alongside Alex Song in midfield in order to allow Cesc Fabregas to play in the hole behind the striker. But it is a role with freedom, with Song acting as the midfield destructor, allowing the duo to cover each other if one bursts forward.

There’s no doubt Wilshere could do a job in the holding role for England, with his tenacity in the tackle and passing ability good assets in the role itself. But he is a player who loves to get forward, and is dangerous when he does, and taking that away from him seems strange. The holding position is also a role that leans towards experience rather than youthful exuberance, with know-how of games and situations critical to performing well. Capello did state he thought Wilshere “read the game well” but at 19 and, with just a season of top-flight football under his belt, he is bound to be still na

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