Wilshere limps off but Arsenal dig deep to cling on for narrow victory
Sunderland 0 Arsenal 1:Jack Wilshere departed Wearside with a heavily bandaged thigh, a limp and, presumably, a lingering sense of claustrophobia.
An afternoon of uncomfortably close attention from Sunderland ended for him when a 50th-minute collision with Alfred N’Diaye exacerbated the thigh injury he had sustained in the first half to the point where he could barely walk.
Wilshere only recently returned after 15 months on the sidelines with ankle and knee trouble but Arsene Wenger will not be asking him to alter a style that, some say, exerts too heavy a toll on his body. “It’s Jack’s game and he has to take that gamble,” said Wenger, who was particularly upset by one unpunished challenge from Titus Bramble. “Jack’s game is to take the ball and go at people. Lionel Messi does that as well and he plays without being injured. You can only make a career with the strong aspect of your game and that’s Jack’s strength.”
Like Messi, Wilshere must learn to cope with tight marking and sly kicks.
Attitude of paranoia
Wenger said he spoke to Wilshere about tight marking but did not want to talk too much about that as he didn’t want to transform the player to an attitude of paranoia. “I’ve told him, ‘just be natural and play your game’. It’s down to referees to protect him when it’s needed. I think Jack can handle it. I don’t go into a paranoia.”
Perhaps, but Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill suggested his Arsenal counterpart was being a bit, well, paranoid. “There was no foul on Jack Wilshere,” said a straight-faced O’Neill.
There were no such worries for Santi Cazorla who has few problems finishing what he starts. The Spanish creator not only scored the winner – his low shot beyond Simon Mignolet a fitting conclusion to an exquisite passing interchange also involving Wilshere and Theo Walcott – but enabled Arsenal to control much of the first-half tempo.
Later though, a combination of Mignolet’s saves, misfiring Gunners and Carl Jenkinson’s 62nd-minute sending off for a second bookable offence – a rash tackle on Sessegnon, who had swapped wings with the underwhelming Adam Johnson – allowed Sunderland back into the game. By the end Arsenal were clinging on for victory.
“We’re a massive club and we never want to be out of the Champions League,” said Mikel Arteta after a second half spent protecting a defence in which Bacary Sagna impressed as an emergency stopper.
Arteta identified the next four weeks – featuring an FA Cup tie against Blackburn, a Champions League duel with Bayern Munich and Premier League games against Aston Villa and Tottenham – as pivotal to Arsenal’s medium-term future.
Lee Cattermole’s career seems at a similar crossroads. O’Neill’s captain was booked for a late, idiotic, third-minute tackle on Aaron Ramsey and was replaced at half-time. Guardian Service