Jack Wilshere has no intention of changing his all-action approach despite his recent injury woes. The Arsenal midfielder is likely to line up for England in their final European Championship qualifier of the season in Slovenia tomorrow afternoon.
But, while a number of his international colleagues will be going into the game in Ljubljana having played 12 months of non-stop football, Wilshere will be fresh, fit and ready after another stop-start season with the Gunners.
The 23-year-old made just 15 starts for Arsenal as a number of serious ankle injuries kept him on the sidelines but Wilshere insists he knows only one way to play. “When I was injured, I read a few people who said that,” he replied when asked if he had thought about making changes to his approach. “I thought ‘maybe they are right. Maybe I should just change it a little bit’. But in my first game back, naturally I just want to pick the ball up and run with it.
“I can’t change that. I can work on a few things maybe. If you look at the best dribblers in the world, [Lionel] Messi, [Andreas] Iniesta, when they are running with the ball it is always close to them so maybe I could work on that. But I definitely won’t be changing my game.”
Wilshere has yet to score for England but his performance in last Sunday’s forgettable goalless draw with the Republic of Ireland was one bright note for Roy Hodgson. The England manager has converted Wilshere into a deep-lying midfielder in his new system at the base of a diamond and, although the Arsenal man is still adjusting to the role, he enjoys the challenge of playing there even if he was anxious when first tasked with the job.
“I have not played many games for Arsenal since coming back from injury and I have not played many games in my new role for England,” he said. “So it [the Ireland friendly] was another game for me, it was a different test. It was against players that I know well and it was tough. But looking back, I felt I did okay, personally.
“I’ve said before I really enjoy playing in that position. Before the Switzerland game when the manager said he wanted me to play in that role and he saw it as the new position, I was a bit nervous, naturally because it was our first big game since the World Cup and we lost a few big names in that position in midfield.
“So the whole team was nervous going into that game but personally I was a bit nervous because it was a big position for the team. But since that game, I feel I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned a lot and I’m getting better every game.”
As well as his own improvements, Wilshere believes the England team as a whole has now moved on from a disappointing and winless World Cup.
The 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the second group game was the last time Hodgson’s side lost and England travel to Slovenia looking to keep their perfect European Championship qualifying record intact.
“I think we have come a long way,” added Wilshere, who is waiting to face an FA disciplinary hearing as he accepted a charge after singing anti- Tottenham songs during Arsenal’s FA Cup trophy parade.
“After the World Cup, people were writing us off and we went to Switzerland with a new team, a young team, with a new formation and we won. It was a big step for us and, even though we played well in that game, I still feel we have come a long way since then.
“We are unbeaten since then, we want to finish the season unbeaten. But we will go into this game as we do any other game. If you look at the group, Switzerland and Slovenia are the two teams that can cause us real problems.
“We still feel we have got a long way to go before we are where we want to be. We have got another year to do it and if we win on Sunday, it’ll be a big step towards qualifying.”