During England’s thrashing by Germany at this summer’s World Cup, Germany were the better side in every department. In one particular area, however, England offered no competition at all: that of playmaker. The Germans had Mesut Ozil, one of the tournament’s stars, whilst the England midfield of Gerrard, Barry, Lampard & Co looked comparatively one-dimensional. They’re good players – great players, even – but they’re not playmakers. Barry is a continuity player, Gerrard an impact player, and Lampard an intriguing cross-breed of the two. But England’s midfield has no conductor, and occasionally, no flair.
In the aftermath of the tournament, great hopes were placed upon the low but sturdy shoulders of Jack Wilshere. Despite the hype, I’m not sure anyone expected him to make as big an impact in the Arsenal side as he has. He’s emerged as a first-choice player, playing a part in every game so far, and excelling in both the Premier League and Europe. He’s been both consistent and creative, with some moments of sublime skill to boot, including this backheel to set up Andrey Arshavin’s goal in midweek:
Despite his seeming reluctance to use Wilshere during the last international break, it’s no surprise that Stuart Pearce has named him in his England U-21 squad for a crucial play-off against Romania. However, if I were Fabio Capello, I would take Wilshere out of the U-21 squad. Partly to avoid the risk of burnout, but mainly because he’s needed in the senior side.
The next England squad will be without the likes of Frank Lampard, James Milner, and Theo Walcott. Midfielders with attacking impetus and drive are in short supply, and Wilshere is one of the nation’s most in-form players. He might only be 18 years old, but he is more than ready to take his place on the international stage.
Capello may well be intending to pick him for the game against Montenegro, which comes a few days after the U-21 game. But why make Wilshere play in both games? The FA ought to have learnt the lesson of forcing Theo Walcott to compete at both levels – he followed up that ordeal with an injury-filled 09/10 season.
Capello needs Wilshere more than Pearce does, and ought to protect his brightest emerging talent. When you’re playing regularly in the Champions League, the ‘experience’ of working under a middling manager with the U-21s is nothing more than an unnecessary distraction.