Arsenal San Siro hero Jack Wilshere: Defensive shape and organisation gave us base to beat AC Milan
- Credit: Archant
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere spoke to the Islington Gazette after his side stunned AC Milan 2-0 at the San Siro. Read on for what he had to say.
With the team under fire after dispiriting defeats – four in a row including being outclassed twice by champions elect Manchester City most notably an abject humiliation at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final, not to mention promoted Brighton deservedly beating the Gunners on Sunday – the majority of the football world was expecting another heavy defeat against Serie A giants Milan.
However, the performance the beleaguered Arsenal side gave at the majestic home of the rossoneri in front of more than 72,000 vociferous supporters was full of the attributes fans would normally associate with the club – guts, a never-say-die attitude, tactical nous, a tenacity in chasing down every ball and a performance laced with spirit and no little skill.
Not many could have forecast the outstanding result. A player who characterised the courage shown on the night in facing down Gennaro Gattuso’s increasingly frustrated side by denying space and time to the home side in the heat of the midfield battle was Jack Wilshere, along with his defensive midfield partner Granit Xhaka.
Their constant motion in harrying the home side allowed Aaron Ramsey to push further forward – which bore fruit when the Welshman danced through to net Arsenal’s second of the night just before half-time.
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It was a defensive tactical masterclass from Wilshere as he outshone their direct opposition in Milan duo of Giacomo Bonaventura and Franck Kessie – a combination that had scored 10 goals between them this season, picking up seven assists between them prior to kick-off.
Their effective play this season had helped Milan to come into the game on the back of a 13 match unbeaten run, including six wins on the bounce.
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The home pair dovetailed well, putting Arsenal on the back foot at times – yet it was Wilshere’s all-round play, defensive discipline and shape and his tenaciousness which saw him win the vital battle in midfield.
But where did the unexpected show of character come from?
Speaking to the Islington Gazette in the mixed zone shortly after the end of the match on Thursday evening the Hitchin-reared 26-year-old answered the question.
He said: I’m not sure. We started the game thinking we’d be in for a real test and have to be willing to work hard and dig in.
“We have good players going forward but we need that defensive shape and organisation to give us a base.
“It was nice [to win].
“It’s not nice to keep losing games. We’re passionate.”
Wilshere, who is in the final months of his contract, gave no indication of further progress on signing a new contract.
The club has offered Wilshere a heavily incentivised new deal starting at around £80,000 basic per week – down from his current weekly wage of £110,000 per week – loaded with further payments should he meet various appearance targets.
But Wilshere added cryptically after Wenger spoke recently saying the ball is in Wilshere’s court, “Things have changed since then.
“We’re no closer to sorting anything out.”
But with his stunning performance at one of football’s biggest stages still fresh in the mind it is an issue the club simply has to address – by upping the basic package of their incentivised deal on the table.