When West Ham United play out their first home game of the 2018/2019 Premier League season on Saturday afternoon against AFC Bournemouth, there are going to be many key battles in many different areas of the pitch.
Today, we analyse a potentially crucial one in the centre of midfield, a zone that is going to pivotal in deciding whether Manuel Pellegrini or Eddie Howe has the last laugh at London Stadium, one that involves a pair of Englishmen, with Jack Wilshere going up against Dan Gosling.
We start our analysis of how this battle will play out by checking each player’s attributes by looking at their Player Profiles, which are provided for us by our good friends over at TransferMarkt.
As we can see from the two graphics, both players are versatile in that they can adopt various roles in midfield, although, on Saturday, we fully expect Wilshere to be deployed in a central attacking midfield position and Gosling, a central defensive midfield position.
The Profiles tell us that the more physical of the two stars is Gosling, which could give him an edge when marking Wilshere from set-pieces or trying to hold him back when the Hammers are attacking.
Wilshere is also significantly shorter than Gosling, which again, won’t play into his hands, especially when we consider corners and free-kicks, not to mention trying to bring down goal-kicks into possession.
What is on the side of the former Arsenal man is age, being two years younger than the ex-Everton star he will be duelling with, he is, in addition, quicker and more agile than him.
The graphic doesn’t tell us, however, that the two players actually played together during the 2016/2017 campaign when Wilshere was on loan at Bournemouth, meaning they will know each other game’s pretty well, adding to the intrigue of the matchup.
For the second phase of our analysis, we are going to compare some statistics suited to the role adopted more by each player during last term, to see who does their job better.
As you can see, we have used Squawka’s fantastic Player Comparison Matrix to come up with the individual stats, taken from the Premier League last season with Gosling still with the Cherries and Wilshere in his final year with the Gunners.
Let’s start with the boyhood Hammer, who it must be noted, played 11 fewer matches and over 700 fewer minutes than his ex-teammate in the league in 2017/2018, due to various injury problems.
Playing most of his league football in the abbreviated CAM role, Wilshere’s goal tally doesn’t suggest he will be as much of a goal threat as some perceive him to be going forward, but he must be given time to adapt.
However, when you look at the other stats in the graphic, it may not be goals for himself, but he certainly poses that danger to the Cherries defence, showing great promise by creating 13 chances and laying on three assists in those 9 matches, although that part of his game is still clearly a work-in-progress.
Perhaps the most eye-catching element of these four statistics is his number of successful take-ons, beating a payer in a one-on-one scenario, something he may well meet Gosling in, many times in East London.
Wilshere averaged over two-per-game with 40 which may not strike cold fear into AFC boss Howe, though it will certainly give him and his players something to think about and be wary of.
We have picked four completely separate statistics for Gosling which better show off his capabilities as a defensive midfielder, his preferred position last season.
Defensively, the Brixham-born midfielder is a very strong asset and will be a tough wall for Wilshere and his attacking comrades to break down, but one they must if they want the three points.
77% pass completion, better than or equal to most in that position, shows that he is able to play out from the back with success, perhaps after intercepting the ball, something he did 24 times during the 2017/2018 campaign.
That’s just under one interception per-appearance and many of them were key to stopping opposition attacks, another way to stop them is by winning tackles in the midfield area.
The tough-tackling Gosling managed 25, displaying to Wilshere that he must be quick on his feet in order to get past him, and even if he does work a shooting or crossing opportunity, the defensive-minded Cherry’s 30 clearances show he is more than willing to muck in at the back and help out the out-and-out defenders.
We have learned from our tactical analysis of the two players that they will forge an interesting battle on the London Stadium pitch at the weekend, one that will be well-balanced and well-matched between the two friends.
However, the matchup is also one that you would expect Wilshere to get the better of, playing in front of the adoring Claret & Blue Army for the first time in those colours, too much skill, pace and imagination from the Hammer could well thwart Gosling and make it a very difficult afternoon for him.