“Air” Wilshere

Walking along, singing this song
Walking in a Wilshere wonderland

There’s a maxim in sports that great players make the others around them better. Like an alchemist of old, players like Michael Jordan can take lead weight like Luc Longley and Toni Kukoč and turn them into golden Champions. And while it’s easy to be accused of hyperbole after a single great performance, I still have to wonder if Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is one of those great alchemists.

In the first half I was impressed by Arsenal’s workrate. They were first to nearly every ball and while it was a bit sloppy from an attacking point of view, the whole team kept getting “stuck in” and winning the ball back. That ethic was epitomized by Wilshere’s only foul of the game.

He had just coughed the ball up and after the Swansea tackler passed it off, Jack followed the pass and made a lunging tackle to try to win the ball back. It wasn’t a rash tackle and it wasn’t brutal, just a well timed, hard tackle, intended to stop Swansea from playing forward and give Jack a moment to look at his teammates. Referee Mark Clattenburg was forced to call the foul and Jack looked around at Diaby and Coquelin an gave them the “what’s up guys? Don’t leave me all alone in midfield or I will tackle YOU” look.

From that point on, Jack was almost never alone in midfield. When they didn’t have the ball, he and a teammate hunted in packs. When driving forward, he always had Coquelin or Cazorla near. He was ever present, always hustling to win the ball back, and almost never slowing the Arsenal attack down.

But if the first half was impressive from a hustle standpoint, the second half was so much better because Arsenal finally found another gear and started to get their attack together. Still tenacious in the midfield and defensive battles, Arsenal now were pulsing forward. Jack was in the mix for nearly everything good that Arsenal did. All simple passes, no Hollywood tricks, just take the ball, turn up field, find a teammate and get a shot. Arsenal were so direct in that second half that by the time the final whistle had gone, Arsenal tallied 25 shots, 15 on goal, 7 saved, 3 cleared off the line, and just the one goal.

This is an Arsenal side that averages 5 shots on goal per game. An Arsenal side that just a month and a half ago against the same opponents, in the same venue, lost 2-0 and only managed 10 shots. And while Stuart Robson was moaning on about how Swansea were tired because of their exhausting schedule, it was Arsenal who played on three day’s rest (to Swansea’s four) and had to play 80 minutes with just 10 men. Sorry, Stuart, Arsenal just wanted it more. Jack just wanted it more.

This is not to take anything away from his teammates. Bacary Sagna won nearly every header, Gibbs showed a strength in possession I haven’t seen from him too often, and Giroud was a beast up front, eventually getting his just deserts with the assist for Jack’s goal.

There could have been more goals from Arsenal, so many more. Giroud was a bit profligate, taking 9 shots and not getting on the scoresheet. Theo was wasteful too, at least three big chances went begging, though in his favor we have to say that Chico Flores’ push probably could have been a penalty and certainly put the Englishman off his stride.

Image via: http://ramseyholic.tumblr.com/

Image via: http://ramseyholic.tumblr.com/

There were also a few defensive lapses which, luckily, went unpunished. Graham made an excellent run to get behind Vermaelen and nearly opened the Swans account in the first half. And Sagna probably should have closed down on Tiendalli who had all the time in the world to orchestrate a perfect cross for Kyle Bartley’s header which fortunately crashed off the cross bar. But when you see such a tremendous performance from Arsenal all around, and an especially pulsating performance from Arsenal’s most famous academy graduate, it seems like crying over spilled milk to moan about any frailties in offense or defense.

Obviously, for Jack to be considered among the pantheon of greats like Jordan, he will have to win something. He has to will his team on to win things. Just one great performance driving his team forward and getting a win in the fifth round of the FA Cup isn’t enough to have his name etched in stone. But he’s just 21 years old, returning from a year and a half long injury nightmare, and surrounded by a team full of unfamiliar faces. I’d say in those circumstances, given the match I saw last night, it’s a good start.


40 thoughts on ““Air” Wilshere

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1H.Braidy

    It always pays to want the ball, ….yesterday we had a few players who didnt shun that resposibility….COYGs.

  2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1vladiziv

    I just love it when they fight like that.. and more often than not the reward will come..
    that Gibbs challenge next to the flag against two Swansea players made me pump my fist in the air :-)

    it’s really astounding we scored only one goal with so many shots on goal and on target..

    not really important or related to anything but Kukoč was 3-time European champion before coming over.. so he was pretty “champinoshippy”..
    different level I know, but still…

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1scrib3d

    Heh, that was slightly the third round. Great performance from Jacky though, also be good to put Carzorla on the wing. Dribbles one side pace the other.

  4. +10 Vote -1 Vote +111 cannons (@11cannons)

    Heh. Nice piece again Tim. I see your recent patch of excellent writing continues apace. At first I thought the title was in reference to the flying knee slide celebration that had me shitting a brick over another potential injury.

    In support of your premise I offer Marouane Chamakh’s fall from grace. Yes, it is largely assumed that he fell foul of a blistering hot Robin van Persie in undroppable, and in Wenger parlance, unrotatable form. But I believe his flaccidity since had as much to do with Wilshere’s absence last season as van Persie’s presence in the side. If you look back on Chamakh’s early period much of his good play was influenced by Jack darting in around the D and making things happen. Last season we had no such midfielder doing what Jack does best.

    This year we have an upgraded version of Chamakh in Giroud. If he and Jack can develop a similar understanding to the one Chamakh enjoyed early on we could see Giroud flourish.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1craig

      Great point! I do remember how often Chamakh feasted off Jack’s little layoffs and quick movement. How has no one else picked up on this…. it just seems so right.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      That’s an excellent point about RvP. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out if he is one of those players. I guess he’s not. He’s an extraordinary individual talent, but not a Jordan.

  5. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1craig

    And I know we all remember… but this isn’t one great performance. Jack v Barca, he was the best Arsenal player. As you describe him yesterday, receive ball, turn up field, distribute ball. His ability to receive the ball and create space on the turn is what gives him the chance to be Arsenal’s homegrown (yes I know Cesc counted as Homegrown) Fabregas. There is of course one other player who has a special ability to receive the ball and turn into space under any circumstance… When he’s healthy…Diaby! Doh! (Don’t flame me – all three do it differently, but its what makes them all so damn hard to play against)! And just to really rile people up… watch video of Ramsey pre-leg break. He had a very similar turn to Cesc, and that’s why he could be so effective around the opposition penalty area.

    But absolutely Jack has potential, and like Theo’s best performances for years being reliant on Cesc’s ability to release him into space, Jack has the quality to make up for others’ weaknesses and play to their strengths.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jax

    There was an lovely moment during the second half when Jack had a shot (which was saved), but he took it with his right foot. With his right fucking foot people! Whatever next?

  7. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    There is only one Jackie Wilshere…

    Our MF looked a lot more balanced yesterday. Perhaps it was partly due to Jack playing further up front but also dropping back as needed, and partly due to having two true BtB type MF players behind him. Not only was there was someone to support Jack, but there was also somebody who was supporting the defense most of the time. One moment in the 2nd half in particular comes to mind when the CHs had pushed up and there was a ball coming in from the right but Diaby had the runner covered.

    Much to be happy about yesterday’s performance. Besides Wilshere, I was very impressed with Gibbs, Sagna looked like his old self, Le Coq added a bit of dynamism and despite playing one or two errant passes always looked to pass the ball fwd and TV5 also seems to be rediscovering some form.

    Only 2 things pissed me off yesterday (usually it’s a lot more!). 1) Theo Walcott. Maybe the supposed new deal and all the drama has got be looking at him more critically than before but by my count he had 4 decent chances yesterday and worse, showed no desire to get the ball back whenever he lost it. 2) the gap between the CHs. This is an area that has been exploited numerous times before and we nearly paid the price for it yesterday as well. TV5 had a couple of great interceptions to save us the blushes but we really need to focus on improving here if we want to win the cup.


  8. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1shotta

    Tim, you can certainly excite. Pity, too many of your long time posters started drinking the negative kool-ade, failing to see a new team is being rebuilt with all the ups and downs of a child learning to walk. You were the 1st to positively opine over a year ago that the Cesc Fabregas era was over. It is becoming clearer that we are seeing a team built around Jack Wilshere. It may be nervy with some real stinkers in the process but it is one hell of a ride.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1crispen

    Right now Jack is the 3rd best playmaker on the team. he missed two simple through passes near the box yesterday which a seasoned camaigner would never.
    A bit early to be calling it his team. It may still turn out to be Walcott’s team, Diaby’s team, Ox’s team. Lets wait and see.
    What we do know is that Jack has just turned 21. Maybe its my bad memory but I do not remember Cesc being as good at so many aspects of the game when he turned 21. That is the magic of Jack. He could become better than Cesc… “could”

  10. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Gerry Lennon

    Yes, it was a great performance, but not a one man show. The team played their part, and there is still room for improvement.
    I thought Coquelin played with much more confidence, and he certainly moved about the pitch a lot. That had its downside if Diaby was forward too, or indeed if Diaby was left as the defending midfielder. Which is why I say there is room for improvement.
    Quite a few crossfield passes were made to Sagna but rarely to Gibbs when he was in space. I think that is the main difference when Podolski plays, He attracts more passes to the left, either directly, or off Gibbs. Yet here we saw both Wilshere and Cazorla turn back inside more often than not?.
    Cazorla really ought to be better with his shooting opportunities though. Whether it is his technique in trying to apply spin, or just too hurried when he has an opportunity to shoot, I am not sure. Either way, he appears to be leaning back when he strikes the ball, hence they sky over the bar.
    Giroud does look like he needs a run of games to get to know where people are likely to run to and play his flick-ons – no more back heels though!. Two perfect assists, Gibbs and Wilshere, could be doubled with regular games?
    These are the areas for improvement that can come with confidence that a winning run can bring? Alas, there will surely have to be some rotation for the Chelsea game?

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Good observations.

      Diaby adds a massive difference to our play. He is a much more composed player now, knowing when to hold back and when to go forward. Trick is to keep injury free.

      Coquelin, there is an excellent player in there waiting to come out. Passing range yet to be found but great work rate and so comfortable on the ball. Honestly thought Wenger should have played him more earlier in the season particularly for the league cup(which was to me over emphasised)

      Good to see Santi out wide for a change, he had license to roam which worked well with our pressing high up.

      that facilitated by the stable platform created by Coquelin and Diaby to afford jack to (righful) opportunity to play higher up where he could assert more pressure quickly on Swans.

      A much better team shape. Suprised (pleasantly) by Coquelin especially. If he can keep it up, we have an alternative to Arteta in this combination.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1EddyKane

    What a difference a win makes. especially one like that. i think that kind of work rate equates to a performance greater than the individual efforts. Although i do believe jack is back.

    Re Cavani, picking up alot of chatter after wengers comments.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Unfortunately, none of that chatter has taken into account that a) Wenger regularly says he likes players (he said he liked Messi last month…), and it doesn’t mean a thing in terms of transfers, and b) the rest of the interview, which went like this:

      “We can spend the money that we have decided to spend if it is for a player we think gives us a plus. But I do not want to speak about Cavani because we have not made an inquiry for him.

      “You speak about Cavani … Napoli are playing for the championship and the Champions League [places] in Italy. What is the interest of Napoli to sell Cavani? None. Unless you come there and say, ‘OK, we pay twice the price of what the player is worth’.”

      In short, the rumor is a load of nonsense.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurasian

    Good to see Diaby and Coquelin put in some good performances. Yet at the same time, strong showings from them might convince Arsene that we don’t need to sign a defensive midfield player. I like The Coq (heh) but he seems like more of a box to box guy, rather than what we need most.

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      May help our efforts to drive down the price of another player which is why Wenger threw it out there.

  13. Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

    Completely different Arsenal when Wilshere is in “Michael Jordan” mode, eh? Aside from the tactical nous, we seem to have had BELIEF in the 2nd half and other than all the missed chances there was everything to cheer about in that performance: pace, control, tight passing, cohesive link up play and the grit and determination not to lose.

    What Stevie G is to Liverpool and what Frank Lampard has been to Chelsea, I hope one day Jack Wilshere can be to the Arsenal. A great lad and a great club absolutely made for each other.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Marvelous, absolutely marvelous from Wilshere. I would not trade him for Mata, for Hazard, for Kagawa, for Oscar, SIlva, or any other mid in the EPL. Class, grit, passion, toughness, and real love for our club. Let’s back him up with some serious money, before the offers start coming in for him from Madrid and Knightsbridge…

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1alabamagooner

    That match was so much fun to watch! Even when it seemed like nothing would go in, and I was worried about extra time and penalties, it was still fun. That being said, I worry a little about piling all our hopes and expectations on Jack’s shoulders. He is still only 21, after all. Remember 21? Or know a 21 year-old? Still do lots of stupid stuff at that age. I just hope if he stumbles under all this pressure, we cut him some slack. One day, though…he’s going to be a legend.

    Oh, and love that picture of Jack, Tim. Lol at that girl’s Tumblr user name. (and I’m sure it’s a girl.) I have a teenaged daughter…I know all about Tumblr. :)

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    I really can’t say too much of the match. Watched on a stream with a 512kbps connection. Most of the time it was just the playing frozen on the screen. But still absolutely happy with Jack’s goal and Giroud’s assist. Lots of luck for the swans too. There is future after all. Come on you Gooners!
    P.S.: No mention of Steve Kerr? How many times MJ would atract the defense to leave him isolated for his classical 3-pointer! I don’t believe he would’ve win a championship in any other team.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        Just like Ray Allen will win one with the Heat this season. OKC is too weakened to stop Miami, unless (and this is possible) Wade picks up an injury in the playoffs.

  17. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Before the Chelsea game…I want Arsene to come out and say in the media that Jack needs protection…its absolutely vital that we do that…

    He has just come back from a long lay off…and is still in the strengthening mode…

    I know that Kompany’s red card was rescinded..and players are going to lunge into the path of Wilshere…Absolutely spot on, that he recieved good cover from Diaby and Coq in the match…
    It was also good to see Vermaelen vociferous through out the game at the ref when Jack gets fouled..

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Usually Arsene saying such things has the opposite effect. After all, how dare this foreigner tell them how their games must be refereed? His team are always composed of soft, diving, johnny foreigners…Failing which, they are thugs like Vieira (no one could ever call him soft :) )

      The linesman telling City players to applaud their fans and mentioning ticket prices just shows that the media has an effect on the officials. We can do without more negative reporting on Arsene’s usually correct, and considered statements in this regard. Jack will just have to deal with it I’m afraid. Unless we get in an enforcer (and train playing with 10 men)

      1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Although, he does mention how much tighter the market has become because of the TV money (distribution) in England.

        Surprise none of the blogs pick this up.

        As I’ve been mentioning, English clubs (second tier) can now pretty much buy almost any player in Spain (bar maybe top 3 or 4 clubs)

        This has made it much more competitive in England and has made the game more technical.

        It has also meant the market for players has shrunk.

        An important thing to understand when considering the challenges to Wenger in the second period of his tenure. Context.

  18. Vote -1 Vote +1blazon


    great writing, again, thank you…

    regarding Jack…increasingly he is taking on Dickensian tones…

    in appearance, in deportment…

    the urchin, larger than life, bursting with energy…

    and, soon, command…

  19. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1jeremydneezy

    Great post.
    One small quibble (squibble?); I believe that Michael Jordan made Kukoc a lesser player by wrecking his confidence in 1992 during international competition. MJ and Pippen hounded and guarded Kukoc out of the game to the point his teammates asked what he had doen to piss them off so badly. MJ took his personal problems with Jerry Krause and made Toni Kukoc the living embodiment of all he hated about Krause (see Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps”). Kukoc would have probably been a much more accomplished NBA player had he not had his confidence shaken by a future teammate. He definitely had the skill set (if not the mental makeup) to succeed at that level.
    Keep up the good work.

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