Without the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, the Arsenal midfield has had to step up and Jack Wilshere did that in a big way, starting the game against Cardiff in the hole in place of Ozil, and while Arsene Wenger admits his best position is as a deep lying midfielder, Wilshere thrived in it. Starting the game on his birthday, Wilshere put in what was probably his best overall performance of the season. In a game that was tense and stressful, but ultimately ended in an Arsenal victory, Wilshere was the focal point putting in an all action performance. Once labelled as England’s new hope, if Wilshere can continue to put in performances like this it will be hugely encouraging for both Arsenal and England.
Wilshere showed his quality on the ball, his eye for a pass, as well as his heart and tenacity. He attempted more ground duels (16) and won more ground duels (10) than any other player in the game. Wilshere was tenacious in pressing too, recovering the ball eight times as well as winning the ball back more than any other Arsenal player. Wilshere was tied with Santi Cazorla and Thomas Rosicky for the most penalty entries and he completed 78% of his passes in the attacking half. Wilshere possesses great creative ability and showed it off against Cardiff creating the most chances from open play (4) and recorded the only assist of the game. He showed his power of possession with his ability to drift past players and completed more dribbles (7) than any other player in the game even attempted.
Taking all the above into account however, Wilshere has not exactly had his best season. The fact that he has, for the most part, been played out of position out on the wing may have something to do with his poor first half. When he played out wide he seemed unable to run the game like he had done so in better seasons. But with all of the injuries that Arsene Wenger began to face, Jack Wilshere was put back in the middle. When Wilshere is in the middle of the pitch he has the freedom to run all around the turf; picking up the ball, driving at players and pick out passes. Before this game, Wilshere had averaged 53.5 touches a game in the league, but was able to showcase a greater impression in the game against Cardiff this week where he was able to take 91 touches.
Wilshere’s brightest moment of the game was the one that clinched the game for the Gunners. After going 1-0 up through the most unlikely of scorers, Niklas Bendtner, Arsenal looked to have the three points sewn up but, with only a one goal lead anything was possible. Bacary Sagna won a knockdown from a free kick that was picked up by Thomas Rosicky. As Rosicky passed the ball to Wilshere, Theo Walcott made a run to get in behind the defence where Wilshere had spotted the run of but only a perfect pass would have led Walcott in on to a goal. Wilshere made that pass flicking the ball into Walcott’s stride. The fact that he played it into Walcott’s stride allowed Walcott to get 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper and allowed him to chip the ball over David Marshall for the games clinching goal. Wilshere’s pass made the goal and this was just a small glimpse of the talent everyone knows that Wilshere possess.
Wilshere was fantastic in the midfield for Arsenal, a promising sign for all Arsenal fans. While it has been a tough season for Jack, he can only hope to work himself back to his 2010/2011 form. With Arsenal pushing for the title they will need all the quality they can get and if Wilshere can rediscover that 2010/2011 form then that will be a big lift for the gunners title chances.