Jack Wilshere’s Arsenal midfield partnership with Granit Xhaka is flawed, says Emmanuel Petit
Emmanuel Petit does not believe Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka work as a midfield partnership for Arsenal.
The legend’s concerns have emerged after Wilshere recently broke back into the Gunners’ starting XI after a series of injury problems and a loan at Bournemouth.
The England international has featured in six of Arsenal’s seven Premier League games over the festive period, each time alongside Xhaka in midfield.
Petit believes that both players have too much of a desire to get forward.
‘Jack is capable of more than what he’s showing and what he has shown in the past. But I’m not really sure about his partnership with Granit Xhaka,’ said the Frenchman.
‘Jack is always focussed on going forward, scoring goals, making passes for his team-mates.
‘So the balance is not quite right with Arsenal, and hasn’t been for some time. The missing link is a holding midfielder. Wilshere can improve, but he needs confident players around him, and I’m not sure Xhaka is particularly confident at the moment.’
Petit believes that Wilshere isn’t taking enough responsibility for the defensive side of the game and should look to address it.
‘If you have two holding midfielders, you can play box-to-box, be aggressive, and try to win all the second balls. Your defence is protected.
‘Of course, you can ask Alex Lacazette, or your centre forward, to press high and be the first line of defence – but, for me, the key element of protecting your backline is the holding midfielder.
‘Therefore, Wilshere needs to work more on the defensive side of his game. Sometimes it seems as if Wilshere considers Xhaka the sole holding midfielder, and the he is responsible only for the transition and to act as a playmaker – but you also have [Mesut] Ozil and [Alexis] Sanchez in the team.
‘Jack must improve physically, and to think more about his defensive responsibilities. Once the defence is protected, he can allow himself to go forward.’
Arsenal 2017/18 fixtures
Chelsea (H) – Wed Jan 3
Nottingham Forest (A) – Sun Jan 7 (FA Cup)
Chelsea (A) – Wed Jan 10 (EFL Cup)
Bournemouth (A) – Sun Jan 14
Crystal Palace (H) – Sat Jan 20
Chelsea (H) – Wed Jan 24 (EFL Cup)
Swansea (A) – Tues Jan 30
Everton (H) – Sat Feb 3
Tottenham (A) – Sat Feb 10
More: Arsenal FC
Petit added that Wilshere, who has a dreadful history of injury problems, still has some way to before he’s proved that he can be relied upon.
‘Obviously, the problem with Wilshere is injury. This has been the case for the past three or four years. He’s a good player but it’s imperative now for him to play regularly and remain injury-free.
‘He needs to play for several months without injury in order to foster confidence. He has the requisite quality and technical skill, as well as the vision and aggression to play in central midfield for Arsenal.’
Emmanuel Petit was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com