A lot has happened at Arsenal since Jack Wilshere last played a competitive match for the side, but the midfielder rarely looked out of the step with the side as it is today. Rather than Nasri and Fabregas beside him, Wilshere was alongside Arteta and Cazorla, but the method to Arsenal’s play has changed far less than the personnel, and Wilshere was able to pick up more or less where he left off.
There was a new energy to Arsenal’s crowd when they learned of his return, and it isn’t hard to see why. His dynamism in the centre of the park with be crucial to Arsenal this season, and although their continuing bluntness up front isn’t something Wilshere is likely to address (despite now wearing van Persie’s number 10), he will contribute both defensively and offensively in the centre of the park.
Looking at the stats of Wilshere’s performance yesterday, you can see both how important he is in the centre of their side. In his 67 minutes on the pitch, Wilshere completed 44 of his 47 passes (97%) including 21 out of 22 in the attacking third. He also completed 4 of his 5 take ones. In a game where Arsenal had the best of the territory and possession, it is expected that their midfield would play plenty of passes, but it is nonetheless encouraging that Wilshere could so easily step into the side.
However the passing stats don’t give a very accurate reading of the game on Saturday, and Arsenal still need to address the lack of chances they are creating. Only in the closing half an hour against QPR did they really show urgency in the final third. Wilshere will not make a huge change in this area of their play. In his time on the pitch yesterday, he created only one clear chance for the team, and it isn’t his role in the side to sit just off the striker playing people in behind the defence.
Overall Saturday was a great day for Arsenal, with Wilshere and also Sagna returning to the starting line-up, and three points at home. However, the feel good factor of Wilshere’s return contributed less to their win than Stephane Mbia’s stupid kick out at Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal’s front three, whoever takes up those positions, look markedly weaker then their superb midfield of Cazorla, WIlshere and Arteta, and they will need work to start producing the attacking returns their midfield gives them the license to.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald