Arsenal are playing better without Jack Wilshere. That's because the young England international plays an individual, rather than a collective game. He also lacks guile and creativity in advanced areas.
It's no coincidence that since Wilshere returned to the team against Norwich City on April 13th, the standard of Arsenal's play has deteriorated.
Specifically, the pace and craft of Arsenal's passing has suffered. One of the chief reasons has been that Wilshere is slowing things down in forward areas.
He has been positioned as the advanced member of Arsenal's midfield trio. This is the crucial position for manager Arsene Wenger's formation and style of play.
It's the position for Arsenal's creator in chief. It must be occupied by a player who can add the finishing touch to the Gunners' passing moves.
He must provide flair and creativity to link the midfield and forward lines together. For years Dennis Bergkamp took on this role as a supporting forward.
His through passes provided numerous goals for speedy strikers and late runners from midfield. After Bergkamp retired in 2005, Cesc Fabregas became the creative fulcrum.
The diminutive Spanish schemer was the player who would produce the killer pass to release a pacey attacker behind a defence.
These through passes between the lines are the essence of Wenger's brand of attractive, expansive football. Wilshere has not demonstrated he has the eye for these kind of passes, or the technical guile to play them.
He doesn't waste passes further back. In fact, Wilshere's short passing game is consistent and accurate. However, this is strictly possession-type passing.
Arsenal thrive when they transition neat build-up play into sudden quick-strike attacks. Wilshere is stifling that transition because he is a highly efficient player, but not a dynamic one.
When he does try and add some dynamism, Wilshere often undermines Arsenal's collective approach. He indulges in too many buccaneering forays forward with the ball.
He doesn't use his skill on the ball to draw in defenders and then release a pass to an unmarked teammate. Nor does he cap his runs by firing a shot at goal once he's glided past a marker or two.
Instead Wilshere has become guilty of simply running with the ball until he is dispossessed. His style has become too predictable. He plays too straight and direct.
Wilshere should vary his runs and utilize more fluid movement. He should drift out into wide areas and use his left-footed delivery to test a defence.
However, he seems preoccupied with proving himself as the boss in the middle. It's become typical to see Wilshere waving his arms at other players.
He angrily gesticulates about where everyone else should be, instead of tailoring what he does to the pattern of his team's play.
It's more than a coincidence that Arsenal scored their three goals to beat Norwich with Wilshere off the pitch. His substitution prompted the Gunners to attack with more pace, verve and ideas.
He began the 0-0 draw against Everton in the advanced position and predictably, Arsenal struggled to create scoring chances. Once Wilshere was removed in the second half, Arsenal had their best moments and might have snatched three points.
A couple of weeks ago we looked at Tomas Rosicky's performance against West Bromwich Albion. It provided a litany of examples of everything Wilshere should do, but doesn't.
For the sake of Arsenal's top four hopes Wenger needs to play Rosicky ahead of Wilshere when both are fit, or move Santi Cazorla back into the middle. That will help the midfield play with more unity and improve the pace and creativity of Arsenal's passing.1020652