After the last few days, realistically there was no way that Jack Wilshere wouldn’t be heavily involved in the action at the Hawthorns on Sunday. Pictured with a cigarette following the win over Napoli, the media focus was always going to be on Arsenal’s number ten. Initially, it looked like the pressure was too much for him with a frankly lacklustre first half performance. However Wilshere showed why he is one of the most coveted young players in England with an excellent second half showing that dragged Arsenal back to the top of the table with a 1-1 draw.
Given that Wilshere is England’s great hope, he can expect the English media to be interested in his every move. That was highlighted by the photo of him that appeared in a national newspaper this week. It’s a lesson for Wilshere that he has to always be weary of what he’s doing in public as there will be people looking for a story. Most footballers have to deal with it as well, but the furore in the press will be greater about Wilshere because of his status for club and country.
What Wilshere has to remember is that the reason he is a big story for any photo journalist is because of his impressive performances on the football pitch. Given how well Arsenal have started the season, Wilshere hasn’t been in his best form and has had to do a job for the team playing in a more unfamiliar wide area. Wilshere isn’t a man to shirk away from responsibility though. If he’s in dodgy form, he’ll do everything possible to play his way back into it. He won’t stop wanting the ball, driving forward and trying to make things happen for the team.
Having been reinstated after being rested for most of the game against Napoli, Wilshere struggled in the first half against West Bromwich Albion. It seemed as if he was trying to do too much to make a point that he wasn’t affected by the news stories about him. He was running the ball down blind alleys, getting tackled, conceding fouls and spending an awful lot of the match on the floor.
As a team, Arsenal were nowhere near as fluent in the first half as they were against Napoli, but they still looked to have control of the match. There was one scary moment when a deflected shot off Mathieu Flamini’s back-side almost crept in, but Wojciech Szczesny produced a superb save. Otherwise, Arsenal had looked to have kept West Brom at arm’s length until the Baggies took the lead just before half time. After defending a corner well, Arsenal went to sleep and shouldn’t have allowed Claudio Yacob to have a free header.
Honestly, I thought it would have been best for everyone if Jack Wilshere was taken off at half time. However Wenger left him on, and Wilshere showed why Arsenal and England fans have such high hopes for the future. He put his first half performance behind him and was Arsenal’s best performer in the second half. For a player that must have had a lot on his mind, it was to his great credit that he played the way he did after the break.
He got his first Premier League goal for three years with an excellent powerful shot from outside the area. There was a significant deflection on it, but the build-up play from Arsenal was superb. Giroud showed how much his overall game has improved before Rosicky laid the ball off nicely for Wilshere to lash the ball into the bottom corner. When you see him strike a ball like that, you hope it can be the catalyst for him to become more confident in front of goal, much like Aaron Ramsey.
Wilshere then played a stunning through pass to Giroud that led to the Frenchman being denied by Boaz Myhill in the West Brom goal.
Since the Aston Villa defeat, the West Brom game was the first time that Arsenal have been behind in a Premier League match. It was good to see the team show some fight and come back from a losing situation when not playing that well. It was a good test to see if there were characters and leaders in the team that could take responsibility. When the chips were down, Wilshere was definitely one to stand up and make things happen for the Gunners on Sunday.
Whilst it was disappointing to end the winning run, a draw at the Hawthorns was a decent result against a good West Brom team. With the wins against Swansea and Napoli, it ends a good week for Arsenal before the international break, and gives the club two more weeks at the top of the table. Hopefully there will be no more headlines about what Jack Wilshere does off the pitch, and they’ll all be about more excellent performances for Arsenal on it.