Arsenal qualified for the knockout rounds of the Europa League after a goalless draw with Crvena Zvezda on Thursday night.
Not a classic would be the charitable way to describe it, but in fairness to Arsenal, they got the job done whilst giving young and fringe players a chance to play in a competitive game. What’s more, they were also able to rest their most important players before Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, who themselves had a frantic Champions League game away to world class opposition.
It looks like Arsene Wenger’s side is all set for Sunday, then.
Few, if any, of Arsenal’s team from their Europa League group stage clash will be involved this weekend, but after making headlines this week for being left out of the recent England squad, Jack Wilshere put in arguably the best performance on the pitch against the Serbian side.
That might not mean much in the grand scheme of things. After all, a decent performance in a dull game where Arsenal played the youth team isn’t necessarily the sign of a great player. But it might show that Wilshere is on the road to something of a recovery, or indeed a comeback.
In the Europa League game, the England outcast performed like the Jack Wilshere Arsenal fans know and love. He was aggressive when on the ball, attempting to take his team forward from defence to attack. That might have something to do with his seniority in the team given he was playing with quite a few youngsters, but it’s also an encouraging sign.
The stats show that Wilshere wasn’t shy about getting on the ball, having 70 touches across the game as he sought to take a leading role in the team’s play, and when he got it, he rarely wasted it, completing 91% of his passes – the best pass accuracy on the pitch.
What’s most interesting, however, is that after all of his injuries, Wilshere is still playing his natural game. As well as having the best pass accuracy on the pitch, he also attempted and completed the most dribbles, too, as he attempted to play a vital role in his team’s transition.
That’s something to watch out for: when Wilshere first broke onto the scene, his ability to beat a man and play one-twos with teammates to bring Arsenal up the pitch was breathtaking. Since then, you’d have thought that his injury record would have forced him to change his game, playing up his passing and positional abilities rather than his explosivity or dribbling qualities.
Either way, though, after being left out of the England squad and mocked on social media for his inability to force his way into the team for club and country, Wilshere shrugged it all off to put in a good performance, and although he needs to build on that as much as possible in order to get back into contention for selection, this has been a decent start.