Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why Wilshere’s match-winning performance against Aston Villa proves his growing maturity

As Arsenal clung on to an unexpectedly tight victory at Villa Park on Monday night, a vintage – and landmark – midfield performance from Jack Wilshere helped convert what could have been a tricky end to the game into an important three points.

History would suggest that this time last year, or almost any of the last five or six years, a mood-changing goal conceded in the last 15 minutes on a cold, wet night somewhere north of Oxford would have led to a different result.

But this team has matured, grown physically and have dealt with this situation enough times now to know not to panic.

So too has Jack Wilshere. Handed the number ten jersey last season after the sale of Robin van Persie, Wilshere has been the subject of huge faith from Arséne Wenger – just as Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, and Kieran Gibbs have been – after injury threatened to hamper his still fledgling career in 2011.

However, there has also been expectation from the manager, and still more from the fans who saw him burst onto the scene as a 16 year old at the Emirates Cup in 2008, and it’s not always been easy to deal with for the now 22 year old.

Now he finally seems to be growing into his role at the club and country as he continues to grow in importance for both camps.

The midfielder is now likely to be Arsenal’s only representative for England at the World Cup this summer after Theo Walcott’s injury and big things will be expected of him next season too with valuable experience under his belt.

After failing to entirely convince in his comeback season in 2012/13, Wilshere has this season had to contend with the form of Aaron Ramsey and record signing of Mesut Ozil, with competition for places proving tough.

According to whoscored.com, Wilshere has been played on the right of the Gunners’ attacking quartet six times, on the left five times and behind the striker twice, with only four appearances in his preferred central midfield role (starts only).

Nevertheless, the tenacious midfielder has shown his maturity in difficult circumstances by reacting in the best possible way – with goals and performances that gave the manager food for thought.

And against Aston Villa, Wilshere seized on a rare start in the middle of the park with a well-taken goal and equally well-provided assist 59 seconds later.

But it was Wilshere’s commanding overall performance that impressed most, as he controlled the game throughout and refused to fall victim to a physical game in which two teammates were taken off with suspected breaks.

With 14 minutes left after Christian Benteke’s late goal gave the home side renewed hope, it was Jack Wilshere that stepped up and provided the cool headed example for all to follow with a good balance of controlled possession and a positive view to break forward when opportunity called.

It’s fitting that it was at this ground in November 2010 that Wilshere recorded his first Premier League goal for Arsenal in a topsy-turvy 4-2 victory that sent his side to the top of the table, even if only for a couple of hours. If they’re to stay there this time, more of the same is needed from players like Wilshere.

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