After over two months out with an ankle injury that required surgery to rectify, Jack Wilshere could return for Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United this weekend, in the Premier League clash with reigning champions Manchester City at London Stadium.
However, if he is fit enough to do so, does the man signed from Arsenal on a free transfer over the summer deserve to slot straight back into the Hammers’ starting Xl? Today’s statistics-driven tactical analysis will answer that question, with the Citizens encounter a mere three days away.
The Likely Man To Make Way
Should Pellegrini decide to bring the 26-year-old Wilshere straight back in for his first start of any description since the first day of September, one would feel that only one man can make way, if he is to stick with his successful 4-3-3 formation in East London.
This man undoubtedly is Pedro Obiang, who recently became the Irons’ 48th different international player when he made his Equatorial Guinea debut over the international break after switching his allegiance from Spain.
With Declan Rice securing his place at the base of the midfield with a string of highly-impressive performances, having got his position in the starting team back due to Wilshere’s injury, picked up after starting the first four league games of 2018/2019, he is not set to be dropped any time soon.
Captain Mark Noble faces his own battle to get back in the side after serving a three-match suspension, such has been the quality of Robert Snodgrass filling in for him, so there is little chance for Wilshere on the left side. This only leaves Obiang, arguably the weak-link of the midfield trio, despite doing himself justice in recent times, as the most likely to make way.
Wilshere’s Start To Life In Claret & Blue
Should Wilshere be up to full match fitness by the time Saturday afternoon comes around, the strength of the new midfield-three system in his absence won’t be the only factor against the possibility of him starting for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s table-toppers.
Another will be the start he made to life in Claret & Blue, following what was widely regarded as his “dream move,” to swap the Gunners for his boyhood club and the Emirates for London Stadium, which was finalised in July.
Played four, lost four is never an ideal start to one’s time at a club as with Wilshere in the starting Xl, Pellegrini lost his first four PL matches in charge, to Liverpool away, AFC Bournemouth at home, Arsenal away and Wolverhampton Wanderers at home.
It wasn’t just these defeats that made the central midfielder’s start to life at his boyhood team nothing short of a misery, it was his performances in the matches. They were described as flat by many and the statistics backed this up, as Wilshere offered very little, playing in both central defensive midfield and central attacking midfield.
For the main part of this tactical analysis and to judge if Wilshere would truly be worthy of coming straight back into the starting Xl in Obiang’s place, we will be comparing the two central midfielders.
To do this, we have enlisted the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com, to create the above comparison, two graphics containing the players’ key general average statistics from the Premier League this season, so far.
The stats will form the basis of the comparison as we pit the two stars up against each other. It must be noted that Obiang has featured in three more PL matches this campaign than Wilshere, obtaining his spot in the regular Xl in September and keeping it ever since, in spite of an injury he suffered in October.
All these figures are per 90 minutes and the first stat we are drawn to is total actions and his rate of success in them, beside a mini heatmap detailing their average positions, and the winner of the first one is the Englishman, with marginally more actions and a higher rate of success.
In terms of average assists, Obiang is king, being the only one of the two to have registered an assist this campaign, setting up Marko Arnautovic in the away victory over Everton, giving him an average of 0.18. They both sit on zero goals for the season, hence their nought goals per 90 minutes.
It’s a surprise that the more attack-minded of the duo Wilshere has the fewer shots and the lower expected goals rating with 0.25 and 0.01, although he does possess a 100 per cent shot accuracy. This is something that cannot be matched by the man the same age as him.
When it comes to passing and long passing, the ex-England international rules the roost with more short passes and a better accuracy than the Spain youth international and a better accuracy with his long balls, though Obiang does average more.
The good news for Wilshere’s case continues when we look at dribbling and percentage of dribbles completed, beating the Equatorial Guinea man’s 1.8 with 77.8% accuracy with 2.55 and 100%. However, he’s inferior in each of the four stats relating to duels and aerial duels, apart from percentage of duels won.
He has also averaged more interceptions this term than the more defensive Obiang, whilst losing the ball less often and fewer times in his own half on average. In addition, the ex-Gunner recovers more, a higher percentage of his recoveries coming in the opposition half, but has a worse disciplinary record, with an average of 0.51 yellow cards, neither have seen red.
Overall, when we total up the scores to see who is more statistically worthy of starting against the Citizens, with one point being awarded to each player for triumphing in a stat, there is only one winner. It’s the summer signing Wilshere with an eye-catching and convincing 15-8 victory.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, according to the stats, a decision by Pellegrini if suitable to bring Wilshere straight back into the team at the expense of Obiang for Saturday is one that would be justified, based on our comprehensive comparison.
Does this mean that the East Londoner should be risked from the start, are West Ham that desperate in the central midfield area that as soon as he is available, he should come back in? No, Obiang is doing a fine job as it is and an experienced manager like Pellegrini will know to gently re-introduce Wilshere, but he does deserve to be given his starting place back in the side and a chance to keep it, somewhere along the line.
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