Saturday’s League game against Burnley was to be significant for us in many ways. There was the issue of overreliance on Alexis, the fear of Gibbs making it through without aggravating his hip injury and of how much we have missed Theo Walcott over the past 10 months.
The concerns and comforts aroused over the conditions of these players were indeed justified as they are undoubtedly key players in Wenger’s current team. But for the kick he suffered in training, Jack Wilshere would most likely have been involved in that game after sitting out the trip to Sunderland due to suspension. In his absence, the team cruised to victory at the end despite not mustering any real concord in concocting genuine chances in the first half.
The win, in the end, was emphatic, but judging by how we struggled in the first period, there could be a case to make that we could have done with extra invention from someone other than Alexis.
Like Jack Wilshere.
As at the Stadium of Light, Wenger favoured the deployment of both Arteta and Flamini in central midfield, which according to Arteta had freed up Alexis for more action through the middle. Neither of the two men in the pivot was able to affect the game as much in attack, leaving just Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain plus Alexis as the only supporters to Welbeck.
There wasn’t enough movement from the middle towards the Burnley goal as evinced by the constant crosses been pulled in by the Chambos from the right. Besides Alexis, we lacked any person who could take the ball from the deep positions in our own half to keep the Burnley defenders running back towards their goal. In a semblance to how City play, we probably could have done better with our widemen if we were able to get them clustered in the middle, send the ball wide when we get to the edge of the box with more space to the Ox to move closer to the danger area before delivering the cut back.
He may not have been doing that quite well, but no other can do that at Arsenal like Jack Wilshere.
To face the fact is to say that for all his improvement this season, he still has been disappointing, especially with his final ball. At Chelsea, at Anderlecht and even before then at home to Hull, there was hardly any player who covered more ground in the central areas of the pitch more than Jack.
His ability to keep the ball, making good forward advances and drawing fouls shows off the fabric of a midfield marshal in him, but he is not going to be a Gerrard or Lampard if he doesn’t step up with what he does in front of goal, be it scoring or assisting. Time after time he has failed to make the right connection with his pass in the final third – trying a lobbed pass when he should play a diagonal on the floor, or attempting an extra slalom when he should be teeing up a teammate – he’s not quite lived up to it at the moment.
If the argument borders about him being a key player for us, the stats do not say much about we having better luck in wining more when he plays. In his 14 appearances this season, we’ve only managed 6 wins with Wilshere on the pitch which is less than 50% and arguably not the best result. Obviously, the game against City at home saw him in real quality form but you don’t become a real influence in a top football club unless you do things that turn draws into wins.
Wilshere’s absence in the Burnley game showed the beginning of a potentially exciting period at the Emirates, when will see more competition for places in the team. Walcott’s return was only a goal less thrilling, Chamberlain’s performance proved he can’t just go straight down the bench and as much as Cazorla and Ramsey are yet to grab a hold on form, you sense they are still more significantly threatening when it comes to putting the ball where it matters most.
In that sense, you could say we didn’t miss Wilshere. Could you?
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