There seems to me to be a marked difference in the level of these two players footballing development, even with Theo’s 3 year age advantage and his obviously superior god given talents, Jack appears to be advanced in the two most important aspects of the game for a young kid, technique and football intelligence. In Australia, at the moment, there has been a debate raging about how to best educate our youth players, not from the age of 13-19, but from 6 or 7 to 13. The general focus of training youth players in Australia for the last 2 decades has been not dissimilar to the approach in England, whereby physical attributes like strength and pace often overshadow skills and rather than encourage technique we emphasise brute force, stamina and ‘clever’ rule bending. This has seen for Australia and for England a drought in creatively and technically talented footballers like Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Paul Gascoigne and Glenn Hoddle for their respective nations.
In the past 2 years though, attitudes toward youth training have been changing here in Oz, and emphasis is moving from 11 a side, full field games to the 5 a side futsal style games used in countries renowned for their technical abilities like Brazil and Holland, for all juniors under the age of 11. The theory behind this move is that the foundation of a players technical ability is inherently laid at a young age and that any ground lost in technique as a junior can be near impossible to make up as a teenager, whereas on the other hand physical and mental attributes like fitness, strength and tactical awareness can all be learnt at a later date. It is at this point where we begin to see the difference in stages of Theo and Jack’s respective development.
Walcott, a graduate of Southhampton’s academy was blessed with brilliant natural ability in his speed and low centre of gravity, but raised in the English style of football, with it’s physically based emphasis his already obvious skills were pandered to and further worked on while his technique (eg; first touch and short passing) was ignored and suffered. Wilshere seems at a glance to be a different proposition to Theo, and although equally slight in stature, he lacks the obvious physical gifts of Theo’s pace, even if he does have a deceptive balance and strength for his age and size (not altogether different from our Russian superstar Arshavin). What Jack does have that Theo doesn’t though, is a truly continental academy education, where he has been raised to believe that technical ability and football intelligence are the be all and end all of a young players game, and the benefit this has given him is plain to see. Jack is superior to Theo in touch, vision, passing, positioning and has multiple dimension’s to his game, whereas Theo only obviously exceeds Wilshere in the one area – pace. Whereas Theo’s pace was coveted as his main attribute, Jack was given a fully rounded football education and his physical ability, like his now apparent strength, was worked on at a later date.
This is not in anyway intended to be an insult to Theo, but more a testament to the Arsenal academy, the continental style of youth development and what that can do for a truly gifted young footballer.
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