Inspirational Wilshere improves Arsenal's mood
Arsenal 2 West Brom 0:“We have our young old Jack back,” summarised Arsene Wenger with a smile after a performance that demonstrated the importance of Jack Wilshere to Arsenal.
Amid all the angst over top players being allowed to depart, the excitement over one who has just returned continues to mount. This was the 20-year-old best’s display since coming back in October from a 17-month absence enforced by an ankle injury and the player believes much better is to come.
“Every game that goes by I feel better and better fitness-wise,” Wilshere said. “I may be at 90 per cent. When I get to 100 per cent I will really show what I can do.”
Most sounds emanating from the Emirates this season have been unmelodious but that will be music to the ears of Arsenal fans.
On the pitch there is a growing symphony between Wilshere and two players who arrived while he was out injured, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, with the complementary skills of that trio combining to make Arsenal’s midfield at times marvellous.
As they outplayed a West Bromwich Albion side who began the day five places above them in the Premier League, Wilshere proved that he has the imagination and deftness to conjure with the two Spaniards, as well as the powerful running to unhinge opposing defences, and the pugnacity to give Arsenal the drive they sometimes lack.
The only downside to his improving form is that it makes it tempting for the manager to refrain from giving him the rest he still needs, to ensure he regains full fitness.
“This was the first time I see him very, very close to the player he is, but I have still to be cautious,” Wenger said.
“We have to see if he has no reaction. To give him a breather from time to time. Maybe [he will play] two, three games and then one breather. 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.”
Wilshere will not volunteer to be omitted. He is enjoying playing with Arteta and Cazorla too much. “Mikel is great,” Wilshere said. “Tactically, his positioning is the best around ... and he is great with the younger players. You can talk to him on and off the pitch.
“I speak to him during the game. There is a good understanding there. He knows I want to go forward and get on the scoresheet but he is the same ... There is a bit of both but he lets me go more than he does. I think the partnership has a great potential, especially with Santi in front of us. With him, me and Mikel, I think this midfield could really blossom in the next few months.”
Perhaps it was a desire not to let anything jeopardise that prospect which led to the amusing spectacle of Wilshere squaring up to Jonas Olsson, a man about a foot taller than him, as the Albion players surrounded Cazorla to berate him for diving to win the penalty from which Arsenal opened the scoring.
Arteta scored from the spot, and did the same in the second period when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was chopped down by Chris Brunt.
Given the poverty of his team’s display, the West Bromwich manager Steve Clarke could be accused of kidding himself when he claimed Cazorla’s theatrics changed the outcome of the game, but he was entitled to be appalled by the midfielder’s deceit and the referee’s failure to spot it.