Tag Archives: Jack Wilshere


The year of the Wilshere?

Good morning. I have been gone for a few days but I’m not going to say sorry. I was camping in the forests of the Northwest and I have no regrets. I got to see the stars, hiked 10 miles, watched a beautiful woman swim naked in a lake, started a fire, ate steaks cooked over a fire, had a beautiful woman read The Interrogative Mood out loud to me, played rummy, and passed out whiskey drunk on a pile of rocks. So yeah, I’m not going to say that “I’m sorry” because I’m not.

I do want to say thank you to Chary for his awesome match report and to Naveen for the match preview. Both articles were perfect and much appreciated by me and the readers here.

Through the magic of DVR I was able to record the match against Manchester City and because I had no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter, and no cell phone service I watched the match as if it were live. So, I didn’t really miss anything… except maybe the people freaking out in real time on Twitter after Arsenal gave up the first goal.

As for the game, I thought Jack Wilshere was outstanding and as Wenger is saying today “answered his critics” a bit. So, I want to focus just on Jack today and tomorrow I will look at a couple of other things that stood out to me.

Paul Scholes isn’t the only person who has been critical of Jack Wilshere over the last year or so. In fact, I think Scholes took the cudgel from some of the professional Arsenal bloggers who have publicly wondered if Wilshere’s career was already over.

It’s part of the modern condition that people not only have to have an opinion, they then have to share it, and (most important) they have to have the opinion first. This leads people to making brash statements about players careers being over when the player in question is only 21 years old.

Those who feel criticized by that last paragraph will reply with “yes, but Wilshere wasn’t playing well! The criticism is justified!” and they would be right. It’s not the criticism of Wilshere’s play that bothered me but rather the proclamations that his career was in jeopardy.

Similarly, I want to be careful after one or two good games to not pretend that Wilshere is now a god among men or that he has completely proven his critics wrong. Somewhere in between lies the truth — a statement that you probably hear a lot from me.

But against Man City you saw Wilshere at his imperious best. He scored a goal, he set up a goal (with a caviar pass) and had another caviar pass to Ramsey go begging. He also showed his strength and speed with the ball at feet, showed a plethora of clever dribbling skills, and drove Arsenal’s attack forward through much of the game.

Here is his dribbling dashboard, he made 10/15 dribbles against Man City.

Wilshere Dribbles v. Man CityIn a sense, this dashboard is the perfect encapsulation of Wilshere as a player. What his critics saw last year was him trying to dribble too much in midfield, getting caught, throwing his hands up looking for the referee to make a call, and giving up the ball in dangerous areas.

But that said Wilshere is fouled a lot and when he plays regularly he is Arsenal’s most fouled player. He is fouled a lot because he is a dribbler, he loves to dribble out of pressure rather than pass out of pressure. Referees in the Premier League do not offer Wilshere any protection and add to that the fact that Wilshere was playing with an ankle which he was babying last year. That’s why he was on the floor all the time with his hands raised looking for the referee to make a call.

So, Wilshere likes to dribble (this is how he “drives the team forward”) and because he likes to dribble he is fouled often. Referees do not always call the fouls and referees do not give yellow cards to players who are fouling Wilshere. The result is that when Wilshere is caught in possession deep in his own half, it makes him look bad. Very bad.

But you can also see where Wilshere’s dribbles can be devastating. If we want to talk about ending a player’s career, Wilshere basically ended Clichy’s career with that dribble into the box which set up his goal. His dribbles deep in his own half also broke pressure, setting up situations for counter attacks and causing the Man City defense to panic.

But this was Wilshere at his best, 10 dribbles is a season high for any Arsenal player and puts him in second place behind Eden Hazard in terms of successful dribbles per game in the Premier League. When he was fouled he got right back up and played through and when he broke pressure he was dangerous both as a goal-scoring threat and as a shot creator.

My hope would be that Wilshere will tame his propensity to dribble out of pressure deep in his own half. It’s a dangerous thing to attempt especially if referees are not going to call fouls. And we know that referees are simply not going to make the calls because they haven’t been up to this point. Instead of dribbling in his own final third (he attempted 5 there and was caught twice) I would prefer him to pass and move, saving the dribbles for further up the pitch where they can cause real trouble. Özil and Sanchez combined for 14 attempted dribbles (8 successful) and only one attempted dribble in the Arsenal final third.

But still, it’s a small criticism of a player who had an all around amazing match against the reigning League Champs: scoring a brilliant goal and setting up another brilliant goal. If last year was the year of the Ramsey, and if Wilshere continues to play at this level, I think we will have to say that this is the year of Wilshere.



Pictures: FourFourTwo StatsZone App
Stats: Opta and my own personal databases


Welcome Debuchy but what about Jenkinson? And if Arsenal buy a Khedira what about Wilshere?

Not much special going on today so let’s talk a bit about transfers.

Debuchy’s signing was announced yesterday and this is fantastic news because that marks Arsenal down as having bought 2 of the 5 positions that they need filled this summer. The best part is that we have made two major signings and we haven’t yet played our first pre-season friendly.

There was some speculation earlier that perhaps Arsenal didn’t need to buy a right back after Sagna left and the Debuchy signing put that to rest. Debuchy is a 28 year old French International with 18 months of experience in the Premier League starting every weekend. I think it’s also symbolic that Wenger bought the French player who kept Sagna from starting during this World Cup. This may be unpopular because Sagna was a fan favorite but Debuchy is an upgrade on Sagna.

Debuchy is younger than Sagna and he’s a more balanced player. When I compared Debuchy to Sagna and Aurier, the difference is stark: Aurier played as an attacking wing back at Toulouse, Sagna kind of didn’t do either defense or offense and instead was more of a passing outlet, and Debuchy was smack in the middle of the two.

Particularly impressive were Debuchy’s defensive stats for Newcastle. Comparing him against his own team’s percentages he made 17% of Newcastle’s tackles, 12% of their interceptions and 10% of their fouls.

Sagna wasn’t horrible but rather Debuchy was just very active defensively. Debuchy also can fill in for Sagna in the aerial duels department: Sagna has long been an outlet for Szczesny and Debuchy will hopefully continue in that role, he did after all win 4/5.7 headers per game at Newcastle.


I know that many people thought (hoped?) Jenkinson would get the starting job and some people went so far to suggest that Jenkinson and Bellerin could do the job but I think this signing puts that idea to bed and tucks it under Jenkinson’s Arsenal bedsheets. Wenger left the door open to Jenkinson saying that he can compete for the spot and further that he hasn’t made his mind up about who will be starting but that said I see this as another transition year for Jenkinson.

The crucial pairing, and probably deciding factor, will be right back and right forward. Jenkinson and Walcott do not seem to get along well in that regard. My observations are that Jenkinson tends to park far too forward and expect Walcott to cover for him. Walcott, being a striker, naturally doesn’t like this. The two of them publicly fought on the field several times with Walcott telling Jenks to stay back and Jenkinson shining Walcott on.

That issue is only going to be exacerbated with the signing of Sanchez who is an outright striker and will not cotton to having to run all the way back to defend for Jenkinson. And I have no problem with this, we didn’t buy Sanchez for £30m to play right back, we bought Sanchez to do the minimum defense up front (pressing and harassing) and to win us games with goals.

Sanchez’ strengths at Barcelona were that he took almost all of his shots inside the opposition box, which is what led to his outstanding conversion rate. You want a striker with a 30% conversion rate? He needs to play deep in the opposition area. For Sanchez to be an efficient goal scorer we need him to have the freedom to get in the opposition 18 yard box and cause havoc. He can’t do that while defending in our final third so that the fullback can whip in crosses to no one.

One other oddity that Wenger mentioned in the interview about signing Sanchez is that Sanchez could play in any of the positions up top, including through the middle and “with Giroud in a 4-4-2″. Now, I don’t know if Wenger is messing us or not and I struggle to think who he might play on the wings (Ox, Podolski, Cazorla, Rosicky? Özil would be wasted out there) but there might be a clue in there as to why Wenger is looking at Khedira. During Wenger’s most successful era he played with two in base of the midfield: Parlor and Vieira, Petit and Vieira and it was Gilberto and Vieira. That’s why Khedira and Ramsey is a mouthwatering prospect in midfield but it leaves so many questions: where to put Özil, and probably most worryingly, where does Wilshere fit into all this?

Wilshere’s stock has fallen off a bit (and I am not at all talking about his smoking) with even some of the most famous Arsenal personalities starting to wonder about his development. At this point in his career I’m more of the mind that he suffered a bit from his injury and frankly he suffered in light of the hugely successful season Aaron Ramsey had.

But the fact remains that he can’t take Özil’s place as the creative midfielder, he doesn’t seem to have the engine to take Ramsey’s place in midfield, and he’s not a defensive midfielder (at least not that he has shown so far). He’s also not a wing player, a forward, or a defender. So, if Arsenal splash the big cash on a player like Khedira or Bender where does Wilshere fit?

With Jenkinson on the bench? And how long will he be happy doing that?


Öoops Özzy

Man at the Match, Chary: Jack gets the job done

A goal in each half, from a Jack Wilshere in smoking hot form, meant the Arsenal finished their work for the evening on top of their Champions League group although not quite guaranteed qualification into the next round.

Many of the Ashburton Grove faithful had barely settled into their seats (yours truly included) when the first home attack of the night caught the French team napping. I was seated in the lower tier behind the goal in the clock end and had a close up view of Jack opening his body and curling the quick fire first goal beyond the flailing keeper. Were Marseille Totn**b in disguise as they conceded so quick?

Are you Totn**mb in disguise?

“Are you Totn**mb in disguise?”

Any hopes of an upset in the away end seemed to die right there and while they carried on singing pretty much the whole way through, apparently aided by one Joseph Anthony Barton who was in their ranks, there was little sustained interest in how the game was going from the travelling support.

That said it appeared to me that Marseille were very much snapping into tackles, their midfielders seeming to have an elastic/bouncy running and tackling style, and harrying Arsenal in possession with the good guys fighting back to gain possession energetically.

While there was not much of note from the Marseille fans, an ill-advised decision to wear what looked like a team onesie from the Marseille coach caused me much mirth.

Team Onesie

Team Onesie

There was also much laughing at the referee’s wardrobe malfunction accompanied by wolf whistles when he his shirt was being seen to.

Selection wise Monreal for Gibbs while Arteta and Cazorla benched were the only changes with Jack and Flamini replacing them.

The presence of Flamini was the main reason that, in contrast to seasons gone by, a one goal lead was seen as very slender and we would concede a goal to a counter attack. I noticed that straight after an attack had failed or finished our returning ex-Marseille man would wave his arms to his team mates and shout for them to get back to their positions and not dwell on the missed chance.

THAT is the sort of protection he has been giving the back four; think how many times in the past after shot was saved by the opposition the goalie would bowl out the ball and the opposition forwards would run through the middle of the pitch unhindered. Not so much now thanks to Flamini and a more responsible defensive attitude from all midfielders.

This, to my eyes, accounts for the more relaxed attitude of the home crowd with just a goal lead to defend and hence the atmosphere being less fractious than in the past.

So when Özzy had his penalty saved, note not “missed his penalty”, their groans were minimal.

Öoops Özzy

Öoops Özzy

In fact, as the penalty incident was just in front of the block I was in, most of the crowd thought it was outside the area and we had the rare feeling of getting a penalty when none was deserved rather than the familiar rage when we are usually denied stonewall penalties.

Giroud had various chances to double the lead in the first half but the ball didn’t quite sit up for him yet the crowd would still sing his song after a failed shot. His tireless work in the offensive and defensive parts of the field accounts is probably why any of his fluffed shots aren’t followed by groans.

Half time arrived and the crowd happy although wistfully wishing perhaps a few more goals for the good guys would have been nice.

You don't get these at Shite Hart Lane

Half time

With their onesie clad managers words no doubt ringing in their ears the Marseille players seemed to play with more urgency straight after the restart however Arsenal’s slightly more combative tackling approach, I don’t recall ever seeing quite so many sliding tackles from us, gradually eroding away the Olympique de Marseille’s bright start to the second half.

I recall one instance where Tomáš Rosický sprinted across the pitch to dispossess a Marseille midfielder and it was just as well he got the ball as it could have been taken for a lunge otherwise.

With arsenal attacking the end far away from me there was not much action at the Clock end in the second half, except for a few smart saves from Chesney, who seems to be having consistently better games this season.

Another player who had a good game was Nacho man Monreal.

He can defend half the pitch in his own

Lone Nachoman

It’s easy pick out how well he provides width on our left flank for attacks but his goal line clearance to keep a clean sheet, after Chesney’s partial block from a Gignac shot spun up and over the Pole towards the goal, was excellent defensive work.

I could see his eyes follow the arc of the ball, rather like a cricketer in the outfield waiting to catch a lofted shot, as it fell towards the goal so he could volley it clear. All defensive units like a clean sheet and thanks he got from the BFG and Chesney was proof of that.

Özzy seemed to put aside his penalty mishap and pull the strings more in midfield leading to his part in Jack’s second goal. Yes, he is having a little dip in form but still his importance the team cannot be underestimated, every team shudders a but when they see him prowling the midfield, and opposition supporters fear him.

In my previous game, the Capitol One Cup game versus Chelsea, the obnoxious Chelsea fans stopped their vile chanting when Özzy came on as a sub and seemed to be caught by surprise.

Arsenal bringing on a superstar? No, they can’t do that. (That game may have been lost but the Chelsea crowd reaction was something I’d not seen before and worth pointing out).

As the game wound down Theo and Santi came on for Jack and Rosický while after Marseille had already brought on Valbuena and Thauvin.

The new defensive responsibility was further exemplified by Santi tussling to get the ball off Valbuena; the sight of those two sprinting for the loose ball looked like Sports day at Oompah Loompah school.

The game petered out and the crowd were happy at full time with the result with confusion over whether the Dortmund- Napoli result, when it was read out, was good or bad news.

However all agreed Mourinho’s Chavs defeat at the hands of Basel was hilarious.

Onwards and upwards, UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)