Jack Wilshere’s ability to influence matches from the holding role was publicly doubted by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
However, in the wake of another impressive showing for England against Scotland, it seems Roy Hodgson has given the Frenchman reason to guess again.
Wenger had been fairly outspoken in quotes published by Sky Sports:
“He (Wilshere) is not a ball-winner. I believe he is more a guy who you want to get close to the final third, to keep him deep you take a big part of his efficiency away.
“Jack is a guy who likes to penetrate when there are many people, he can provoke free-kicks, he can create openings.
“It (a deeper role) would be detrimental to his strengths and a position which is not his strength.”
However, Wilshere has been able to express himself remarkably well at the base of Hodgson’s midfield diamond in recent games, despite playing with a variety of partners.
Wenger’s decision to highlight his midfielder’s weakness when it comes to regaining possession suggests he has a different idea of the 22-year-old’s role to his England counterpart.
The constant evocation of Andrea Pirlo in relation to the son of Stevenage’s national team position suggests that, like the Italian, distribution rather than tackling is his primary responsibility.
Pirlo’s continued presence in the Italy side despite the advancing years is testament to his enduring powers, but also successive Azzurri managers’ decisions to use energetic but tactically-savvy operatives alongside him.
Wilshere was able to run the show against Scotland partly because of Hodgson’s judicious employment of James Milner and Stewart Downing in a midfield three.
It meant that he was afforded an element of freedom to utilise his attacking nous when the moment required.
His superb assist for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s opener was a case in point.
Milner clocked his midfield ally’s sortie into the Scottish right-back position (from whence a peach of a cross was unleashed) and fell in deep to fill the position Wilshere had vacated.