Saturday 20 January 2018

Wilshere finds old form to lighten gloom at Emirates

Arsenal 2
West Brom 0

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger has spent a very sizeable part of the season being forced to listen to fans loudly inform him that "we want our Arsenal back".

Precisely what those supporters want back is unclear but, if it is evidence of some remaining world-class talent, Saturday was to provide reassurance for one simple reason.

Jack Wilshere produced a performance to suggest that he is back not just in the physical sense but also in terms of the talismanic influence he can have on the team.

Even Wenger, who is usually so determined to suppress the hype that surrounds any young player, could not conceal his delight.

Asked if he felt that he now had "the old Jack" back, Wenger said: "Yes. The young old Jack. I expected him to be back at his best in February next year. He looks much earlier."

After the collective deficiencies of Arsenal's 2-0 defeat against Swansea City, every aspect of Wilshere's game clicked back into place on Saturday.

He was incisive with his passing and seems to be rediscovering the crucial burst of pace that allowed him to drive forward so effectively in possession. His work off the ball, where he was far more combative in his tackling and pressing, was also impressive.

Wilshere's understanding with Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla continues to develop – they produced one breathtaking sequence of passing that was reminiscent of Arsenal at their fluent best.

Wenger acknowledged that he now faces a dilemma over whether to stick to his plan of giving Wilshere "a breather" every third or fourth game.

"I have still to be cautious but, when he plays at that level and you are under the pressure we are under to win the games, it is difficult to leave him out," he said.

Wilshere rated himself at "90pc" but said it was his best display since coming back. "When I get up to 100pc I will really show what I can do," he said.

Questions do persist, however, about Arsenal's cutting edge and they still had to be reliant on two fortuitous penalties, converted by Arteta, to make their dominance count.

Wenger rightly wants to shake up his attacking options in January and, with a loan for Thierry Henry now almost complete, bids can be expected for Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

West Brom manager Steve Clarke highlighted refereeing errors, notably for Cazorla's dive, but should be equally unhappy with a team performance of such limited attacking ambition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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