Jack Wilshere frequently divides opinion like no other English player has since the days of John Terry’s off-field antics.
There’s a section of England that loathes the idea of Wilshere being a part of the country’s international squads. This contradicts with the views that he’s England’s rare prized possession and he must be chosen regardless of whether a certain Mark Noble has to pay the price for it.
For all the brilliance Noble has produced, the omission of the 29-year old, in itself, serves as a compendious explanation about how sui generis Jack Wilshere is as a player and how vital his services are in the middle of the park to England, a view voiced by Xavi Hernandez too. When Xavi says so, you hardly question it.
As England embark upon their journey to the ultimate prize in European Football, there’s no doubt about the certainty of Wilshere’s “massive” role in the team, though, what position does he play is still something that keeps confounding the experts and fans alike.
He can play as a holding mid-fielder, a central mid-fielder or his personal favourite: the no.10 role.
Yet, there’s one more role he can excel at, one that many haven’t even considered him to be fit for and one that has never been used by England in recent times: the false no.9 role.
What Exactly is a False no.9?
Simply put, a false no.9 can only be someone with a decent, preferably devastating eye for goal, unbelievable precision, vision and ability to deliver the killer pass at the right time.
He is the furthest player on the pitch as per the formation, but doesn’t actually play at his position for tactical reasons, instead shifting into the mid-field, leaving the team with no striker (but two pacy wingers either side), hence creating confusion among the defenders as to whether they maintain their defensive line or follow the false no.9 deep into the mid-field.
As a result, the player in this role is generally left without any marker and he’s free to wreak havoc, as Lionel Messi did under Pep Guardiola and Cesc Fabregas under Vicente Del Bosque in the final of the Euro 2012 for Spain.
Why Jack Wilshere fits the Role?
Jack Wilshere has got all the skills required to be successful in that role – he has got vision, accuracy, good finishing skills and more importantly, the intelligence to do it.
Playing him in a more orthodox role with someone like Harry Kane or Wayne Rooney as striker might appear to be a safe idea, but a risk is where England’s chances of Euro glory lie.
Deploying Jack Wilshere will serve multiple purposes for Roy Hodgson – if he’s willing to take the risk – while it also means he can fully utilise England’s attacking potential: their biggest strength.
Assuming, for example, that England play a 3-4-2-1, what Wilshere as a false no.9 does is he gives Hodgson yet more room for another creative player in the mid-field (see the image above), plus there being the option of playing two defensive mid-fielders to protect England’s three best defenders.
Mind, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy are tactical selections again, because playing a false no.9 means that you need two lightning quick wingers either side so that when the final pass is made by the “unmarked” Wilshere in this case, they are out of sight in the blink of an eye.
As wild as the idea sounds, it could work wonders for England in France, particularly with the exact XI and formation that’s been mentioned above. But will Roy Hodgson go for something as risky, even if it promises rewards? Possibly not. Nonetheless, it’s worth a try.