Since breaking into Arsenal’s first team back in 2010, Jack Wilshere has been the focal point of the English media’s gaze, under the spotlight of intense scrutiny. An extreme pressure cast upon the shoulders of a talented youngster, deemed a prospective saviour of English football and potential mainstay in the national team for the foreseeable future.
Viewed as a possible crock in the making, due to his unfortunate and ill-fated visits to the treatment table over the years, Wilshere shook off the cobwebs on Tuesday and displayed all of his attacking traits as Arsenal strolled to a 2-0 victory over Marseille in the Champions League.
Wilshere’s heat map versus Marseille.
The 21-year-old midfielder ran the channels well, hugged the touchline when the team required extra width, darted into space beyond the opposition defence, and generally looked to penetrate Marseille’s back four on a regular basis – more so than any other player.
Wilshere spent most of his time in front of Marseille’s penalty box.
Wilshere frequently drifted inside too, linking intelligently with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil as Arsenal maintained a level of creative fluidity that kept the French side on their toes, not knowing when a player in red would drift into space and take up a new position. Indeed, it only took 30 seconds from kick-off for Wilshere to scurry down the right flank into acres of space, cut inside onto his left foot and precisely lift the ball into the far corner past Steve Mandanda.
Two goals that won the game.
Marseille were shaken from then on, leaving pockets of space for Arsenal to probe and penetrate at will, with Wilshere remaining the epicentre of all things good for the hosts.
The most disappointing aspect, from Arsenal’s standpoint, was their inability to pile on the pressure and see the game out following the early goal. They took the foot off the pedal and reduced the tempo, which in turn took the sting out of their own game.
Decisive passing, quicker tempo and horizontal passes to players in space had proven successful. It’s just a shame they didn’t pursue this strategy further, with more zest.
Wilshere completed 38 passes on the night from a variety of locations, including three goalscoring chances – one from the centre circle, and two within the opposition’s 18-yard box. The total number of passes may be paltry when compared to Tomáš Rosický (79), Mathieu Flamini (90) and Ramsey (97), however Wilshere’s role was to assist in patient build-up throughout central zones when needed, and dash into space beyond Olivier Giroud via the left and right channels.
Indeed, on one occasion the 27-year-old French striker was seen pointing to his feet (direction of passes), seemingly reluctant to break the offside trap – that was Wilshere’s job.
Squawka’s Man of the Match.
Two successful dribble attempts (100%) and two successful tackles (100%) only adds further emphasis that Wilshere performed at an impressive level in last night’s clash with Marseille, picking up a Performance Score of 69 and the Squawka Man of the Match award in the process. Ever willing to advance into space, drop deep, switch sides, surge past opponents, and create chances for others, the England international capped his notable display with the game’s only goals.
The opposition may have been lacklustre – personnel changes implying that Marseille were more concerned about resting key players than the score – however, you can only beat what’s in front of you, and Wilshere unequivocally did that.