Jack Wilshere had been without a club since the end of last season, where he spent the second period of the 2020/21 Championship campaign in his second spell with Bournemouth, however, he has recently joined AGF in the Danish Superliga.
This analysis will avoid repeating his story and history with injuries, for it is well known, but what will be analysed in this scout report is what he can still bring to a team — and at 30 years of age, injury-willing, he has plenty of football left to play in his career.
This tactical analysis and scout report will initially look at data from his most recent spell with Bournemouth and then provide some in-game context before coming to a conclusion on Wilshere’s current ability and provide an analysis on the tactics that he best suits at this stage of his career.
Data and overview
Looking at Wilshere’s heat map from last season with Bournemouth, we can see that he was often used in a deeper position in possession, as reflected with the amount of action inside his own half in the following image.
He was predominantly used as part of a double pivot, interestingly used on the right-side despite being left-footed, with Jefferson Lerma playing on the left side of this double pivot despite being right-footed.
As his career has progressed, Wilshere has found himself being used deeper and deeper. Initially, upon joining West Ham, he was given more of a freedom to take up attacking positions in the opposition half.
Even more striking is his heat map from his previous spell with Bournemouth in the 2016/17 season, which we can see in the following image.
Whilst there is still action inside his own half, we can see that the vast bulk of his actions come in more attacking positions, and this was something we initially saw with West Ham too.
Wilshere is an assured passer of the ball — anyone who has seen him play will testify to the composure he has in possession.
His move into a deeper area of the pitch may just be a tactical one; however, getting him on the ball in build-up phases where he can set the tempo, and given his press resistance as a dribbler makes sense. His new club AGF shouldn’t write him off as an attacking midfielder either, just because of a more recent move to a deeper position on the pitch.
His ability as a dribbler is undoubted and can be seen in the following graph, showing Championship central midfielders’ (who played at least 500 minutes last season) dribbling.
Whilst his overall volume of dribbles per 90 is slightly below the league average, it is not by a large margin, yet his completion rate of 85% is truly outstanding.
The size of his plot point also shows his volume of progressive runs against that of his peers in the league. We can see that his 1.4 progressive runs per 90 is stronger than the vast majority of midfielders in the league, and it shows that he isn’t just evading pressure with his dribbles but also moving the ball forward.
Even though Wilshere is somewhat of a standout when we look at these metrics, his performance in other areas is less impressive.
As a progressive passer, last season Wilshere was not only attempting a lower volume than the league average but, worryingly, his completion rate on these passes was substandard as well.
His volume throughout these graphs is where Wilshere falls short. His completion or success rate when looking at these metrics, other than with progressive passes, is generally above the league average.
With his creative passing showing passes into the final third and completion on these passes, we can see a similar pattern in the next graph. Whilst above the average for completion, his volume is well below the league average. The size of his plot point also indicates his expected assists per 90 which, at 0.03 per 90, is very low. However, we do have to remember that Wilshere was used in a deeper role for Bournemouth and, naturally, is going to have a lesser impact in this aspect of his game. The fact that his accuracy on passes to the final third per 90 is well above the league average is encouraging despite his volume and xA.
Defensively, once again Wilshere wins an above-average percentage of his defensive duels. His 61.67% win rate is very respectable. Throughout his career, he hasn’t been involved in a high number of defensive duels, and 5.483 is actually a relatively good volume per 90 by Wilshere’s standards. This is similar to his volume of pAdj. interceptions per 90, which isn’t strong but has never been an area of strength for Wilshere.
What we can take from these statistics is that Wilshere performed relatively well across some key areas for Bournemouth, generally ranking above the average for completion rate, even if his volume was often below the league average. Nevertheless, based on these graphs alone, it is surprising that Wilshere had gone so long without a club since his time with Bournemouth ended.
We can also make some conclusions around Wilshere’s use in a deeper position. Whilst he can progress the ball accurately, he doesn’t necessarily do so at a good rate, but he is a very secure dribbler who can evade pressure but also progress the ball too. However, he isn’t a defensive midfielder and needs to play alongside a defensively secure central midfielder if operating in this area. It would be interesting to see Wilshere’s creative passing statistics were he to play as a more advanced attacking midfielder.
Positioning and dribbling
Wilshere would drop well inside his own half during build-up play for Bournemouth, often anchoring possession and giving them an overload as the two centre-backs looked to play out.
While he offered a short pass option, Wilshere would scan regularly and still look for the chance to play forward. We can see him scanning as he moves towards the ball-carrier in the next image.
After receiving in this instance, he has already assessed there is space in front of him to drive into and he quickly breaks past the first line of the press and accesses the space in between the opposition forward line and their midfield.
Wilshere does a terrific job of making late movements into areas where he can quickly receive and, where possible, he will take the ball on the half-turn. His first instinct is to continue to play forward and as he receives, he readies himself to dribble past any oncoming pressure.
Wilshere changes direction on the ball exceptionally well and has a noticeably low centre of gravity as he does so. He can ride challenges particularly well and even if he nearly always dribbles strictly on his favoured left foot, he still does an excellent job of getting his body between the opponent and the ball, which can allow him to break past them or get the contact and win the foul. We can see him progressing the ball immediately after receiving in the next image, breaking forward, passing the challenge, and subsequently releasing the through ball.
As a ball progressor, he can have a slight tendency for holding on to the ball too long at times and can engage in somewhat futile dribbles across the pitch in a diagonal angle. He does progress the ball slightly when doing this, but he can slow play down unnecessarily and miss the chance to play a more advantageous forward pass. These dribbles can provide time for the opposition to shift across and ensure they have a solid defensive shape before he makes the pass.
Passing and final third play
Nevertheless, he can play quickly in other moments and generally has good vision as a ball-player. He doesn’t attempt a high number of long passes over the top – in fact, a lot of his “final passes” come in short supply, but still show clear quality when he does look to play in such a way.
The following image shows him instinctively playing a first time pass on a bouncing ball after a knock-down from the adjacent centre-forward — an incredibly hard technique to pull off, yet Wilshere did so effortlessly. There is certainly no doubting his technical quality or vision.
If there is space to drive into, as we’ve seen already, Wilshere will oblige. He can break past the midfield and consistently looks to engage a tackle before releasing possession. This can be with a simple pass to one side, but he also slides passes in behind, often with a no-look pass and with little backlift before doing so.
The following image showcases his ability to adjust and overall attacking instinct, which is frankly at a level way above Championship level football. As Solanke breaks through the QPR defence and is tackled, Wilshere instinctively supports his forward run, picks up the loose ball and with his first touch immediately places the ball beyond the last QPR defender and into the path of his centre-forward once more.
If given space to do so, he has no issue attempting more difficult line-breaking passes. Again, he doesn’t do these at a high volume, but the angles he finds and looks to play through, like in the following image (albeit he was unsuccessful in this example), suggest that given a much longer run of games, and given the chance to truly find match-fitness, Wilshere could soar.
He is particularly effective at playing forward when receiving in moments of attacking transition. He has exceptional movement and is nearly always an option for his defence if they overturn possession inside their half. Expect Wilshere to receive on the half-turn and on his second touch release the ball in behind. This is perhaps the most frequent and even most effective attacking pass which he plays.
Wilshere isn’t going to be a leading defender in the midfield; however, he can be effective. He can be a touch reactive at times to shifting across, whereas anticipating a pass and being more proactive with his positioning would allow him to make a higher number of challenges and interceptions. He does lack acceleration at times and if not immediately in a good position to challenge an opponent, he can be broken past by a powerful dribbler.
However, if he can get to the ball early on, given his low centre of gravity and general combativeness, he can do a terrific job of getting his body between the opponent and the ball.
If he is in a position to make an interception, he can often play a first-time pass away from pressure on the same touch he makes the interception with. However, even well inside his own half, he is comfortable dribbling past an opponent to evade a counter-press. He can beat an opponent in close proximity to him before moving possession on swiftly, but can also attract the foul in a moment where winning the foul and breaking up play suits his team well.
Wilshere is injury prone — there is no doubt there — yet he still plays with a reckless combativeness at times that needs to be curtailed. He is happy to fling himself into challenges. These can come in the form of rather awkward lunges and may lead to bookings or worse, but they also greatly increase the likelihood of him hurting himself in a 50/50 challenge and given that, at 30, he should now be a mature player, this is perhaps an area of his game he needs to reign in.
A move back to the Premier League, at least straight away, didn’t make sense for Wilshere. He had a small sample of first-team football at Bournemouth last season, having only played 17 games, but despite this, he didn’t stand out much and clearly wasn’t in Scott Parker’s plans for this current season. There had been talk in the media of interest from West Bromwich Albion and Como, in Serie B, but the move to AGF came out of nowhere.
Wilshere needs to be playing regularly, that’s a given, but he also needs to be successful. He is 30 and likely wants to return to top tier football in one of Europe’s best leagues before he retires. By immediately moving back to a top-five league in Europe, he may have struggled with a lack of sharpness. Given his speed of play and all-around technical ability, Wilshere could play in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and of course England, but a move to Denmark suits him still, and will give him the chance to get back to match fitness well out of the eye of the english media.