We are mid-way through June and West Ham have already made three signings. Two of them are goalkeepers who will attempt to usurp Lukasz Fabianski. The third is the 22-year-old Pablo Fornals.
The Spaniard arrived for a fee of £22 million after a seemingly quick negotiation. Fans are obviously ecstatic at the signing. He is a highly rated attacking midfielder who was recently pursued by the likes of Arsenal. Fornals is going to get into West Ham’s best XI for the season, but this begs the question – does Jack Wilshere?
Wilshere signed on a free from Arsenal in the summer of 2018. It would seem to be his dream move as he was a boyhood West Ham fan, but fans were apprehensive about the move given Wilshere’s horrific injury record; however, he completed a total of 38 games across all competitions for Arsenal in the 2017/18 season.
Optimists among the Hammers fan-base thought Wilshere would bring a certain amount of flair and determination in a midfield that had been lacking in previous seasons.
Wilshere started the first game of the season, a tormenting 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. Pellegrini deployed him in a midfield featuring Mark Noble and Declan Rice. Wilshere was meant to act as a ball carrier in the midfield, able to accelerate and manoeuvre his way out of Jurgen Klopp’s famous and dangerous press. It didn’t work out as planned. While there were one or two instances where Wilshere was able to get on the ball and work his way out of the press, he could not take control of the game and mostly watched as it flew by him.
The next three games followed the same trend as West Ham lost each of them. It was only when Wilshere was dropped from the starting XI for Pedro Obiang that West Ham were able to pick up their first three points, a 3-1 away win against Everton.
Wilshere then aggravated an ankle injury in mid-September that had been bothering him since his days at Arsenal, which kept him out until early December when he made a brief cameo as West Ham beat Newcastle 3-0, grabbing a superb assist and reminding the West Ham faithful that he could still bring something different to a rather one-dimensional midfield.
Again, injury problems struck, and Wilshere was forced to have ankle surgery, keeping him out until April when he returned in a 2-2 draw against Leicester. Wilshere didn’t have much of a chance to show any of his class in that game, but in the last couple of games he showed his brilliance, playing a massive part in Fredericks’ goal against Southampton and almost scoring against Watford.
He showed the fans how good he can be, and even more impressively, he was able to do it in a small number of minutes. He looked like the man of the 17/18 season, an important part of a strong Arsenal squad. Fans were excited for his future after he revealed he’d be working all Summer to try and rid himself of his injury woes.
Manuel Pellegrini has come out and said how Wilshere is a big part of his plans for the upcoming season. However, this was before the signing of Fornals. Since then, it’s been revealed that he plans to play Fornals and Lanzini in the same midfield. Fornals and Lanzini are similar players – creative, attacking, looking to provide a spark in the attack, a moment of brilliance. These two ahead of a defensive midfielder, most likely Rice, would make a potent midfield able to do damage.
However, I think Wilshere has some space left in West Ham’s midfield.
If Pellegrini plays Lanzini through the middle with Fornals on either the left or right, West Ham could have a pivot of Wilshere and Rice. This would allow Wilshere to roam or pick a pass from deep and start a move while Rice could sit in front of West Ham’s back four and do what he does best – shield them from any attacks while putting out danger before it starts.
Wilshere has a point to prove this season and West Ham fans can be hopeful that if he stays fit (a big if), they will have a truly threatening side next season.
By Joss Bathke
[Featured image from whufc.com]