Wherever he has managed, Manuel Pellegrini has employed the services of a technically-gifted central midfielder to run his team.
At River Plate, that player was Andres D’Alessandro. At Villarreal, another Argentinian in Juan Roman Riquelme. At Real Madrid, Spain star Xabi Alonso. At Malaga, Santi Cazorla. At Manchester City, David Silva.
Now, at West Ham United, Pellegrini believes that same influential role can be filled by Englishman long held as his country’s outstanding talent in that position, Jack Wilshere.
On Saturday, Wilshere will run West Ham’s midfield at Emirates Stadium – a venue where he did exactly the same thing so many times in an Arsenal shirt over the past decade.
In his pre-match press conference, the Hammers boss was asked if he believes the No19 can discover his best form and flourish in that same role previously filled by D’Alessandro, Riquelme, Alonso, Cazorla and Silva.
Jack is a player you must leave to play alone, to play in the moment, to receive the ball because he’s going to make things happen
“Yes, I’m sure about that,” he said, adamantly. “Because he is just 26 years old. Because he knows better how he must manage his physical work so as not to be injured, and the last two seasons he played a lot of games. This season we are working with him from 1 July, 40 or 50 days, and he’s not having any problems.
“I think that Jack Wilshere must play as Jack Wilshere. He’s not a defensive midfielder to hold the line. He’s a midfielder more comfortable when he comes from our side and not when he is playing back towards his own goal.
“Jack is a player you must leave to play alone, to play in the moment, to receive the ball because he’s going to make things happen.”
Pellegrini also compared his midfield star favourably to one of the all-time greats, Andrea Pirlo, stating that the West Ham man’s stature, technical attributes and playing style give him the opportunity to take on a similar position to that which the former Italy international filled during his trophy-laden career with Juventus.
“In football there are a lot of things you can do. A lot of you will remember Juventus around four or five years ago he played with one holding midfielder. It was Pirlo. And Pirlo is the same as Jack. He has the same characteristics as Jack.”
While comparisons with Pirlo may be lofty, Pellegrini believes a confident Wilshere can and will be a player around which he can build a successful team – just as he did with D’Alessandro, Riquelme, Alonso, Cazorla and Silva.
“He just needs to recover his trust in what he can do. Maybe his career was not all his top [form], his brilliant career, because he had a lot of injuries. So, I think at this moment we must give him trust, let him play, because I repeat what I said: he is a different player, and he will do it.”
And when he does do it, West Ham United, and not River Plate, nor Villarreal, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Malaga nor Arsenal, will be the team which reaps the benefit.