Jack Wilshere on adapting to holding role for England: ‘Been watching Xabi Alonso on video’
England’s Jack Wilshere has revealed that he has been adapting to his new international role as a holding midfielder by studying footage of Bayern Munich’s Spanish midfield organiser Xabi Alonso.
Typically a box-to-box player with Arsenal, Wilshere has been asked to adopt a more conservative role in England’s first two Euro 2016 qualifiers – last month’s 2-0 win in Switzerland and Thursday’s 5-0 defeat of San Marino.
The 22-year-old is expected to reprise the role when Roy Hodgson’s side tackle Estonia in Tallinn on Sunday, and he will have Alonso’s example in mind when he takes to the field at the Le Coq Arena.
“I have been watching Xabi Alonso on video in the past couple of weeks,” Wilshere told journalists before flying out to Estonia with the rest of the England squad.
“He had a record number of passes in one game, 200 in one match, which is ridiculous. Watching players like him and (Andrea) Pirlo, you learn how clever they are, how intelligent they are on the ball.
“In that role it’s important you understand that if you lose the ball, the opposition are in a dangerous position to counter-attack.
“Whereas if I was playing a little bit higher, on the edge of the box, you can lose it and you have players around who can get the ball back.
“You learn how they use the ball and you learn when it’s a good time to dribble or sometimes pass. I enjoy playing that role. I enjoy getting on the ball and starting attacks.”
Wilshere’s career has been scarred by injuries since he made his breakthrough in the 2010/11 season, but after a full pre-season he has appeared in 12 of Arsenal’s 13 games to date in the current campaign.
Asked if he was in the best form of his career, he replied: “I’d say I am. As a 22-year-old, I missed a lot of football, which can be frustrating.
“But now I’m back, I’ve had a good pre-season, I’ve had a good run of about 10 games, and I’m feeling fit.”
Wilshere is one of 10 players aged 24 or under in Hodgson’s squad and with former stalwarts such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole having retired during the close season, he believes a new, youthful core is beginning to emerge.
“There are a lot of players who have come through the Under-21s together who are now in the seniors,” he said.
“We are good friends off the pitch and we are of a similar age. We have really worked on team spirit and I think you can see that in matches. Win or lose, we always stick together.”
He added: “Basically all the players from that ‘Golden Generation’ have now stopped playing at international level, so there’s a space for us to come in and write some history ourselves.
“We’re young, we’re eager, we want to learn, and we want to win something with England. At the end of the day, that’s the main thing.
“We want to get through this qualification and go to the Euros and really do something.”
With so many young players in the team, Wilshere said that captain Wayne Rooney – who is two matches away from a 100th cap – had a particularly important role to play.
“He’s the only one now who has been playing for England for 10 years, with the likes of Gerrard,” Wilshere said.
“He’s been through that generation. Now he really feels like he’s the dad figure. He puts his arm around us, brings us together and gets us going.”
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Updated: October 12, 2014 04:00 AM