Tag Archives: Jack Wilshere

Secret Agent Jack Wilshere lures Declan Rice to join Arsenal…

This is the transfer rumour that just won’t go away, isn’t it? We’re going to move Declan Rice to the Emirates by sheer dint of will—or, if rumour has it, Wilshere. As the story goes, our own Jack Wilshere, current manager of the u18s and former teammate of the former Irishman, could be our ace in the hole when it comes to securing Rice’s services. The two buddied up during Wilshere’s two-year spell at West Ham, and Rice has gushed over their relationship while also dropping hints about his future and his desire to play Champions League football. His contract is up in June 2024, but the persistent rumours suggest he’ll be moving in a matter of months. 

Asked “How much help has Jack Wilshere been for you, having gone through the same experiences [of getting dropped after mistakes on the pitch]?” by the official West Ham website, Rice had the following to say:

Me and Jack has been a surprise friendship. We get on so well, we’re like best friends really…to be training with him is crazy because I grew up watching Jack Wilshere putting in performances on Match of the Day and against Lionel Messi in the Champions League in 2010, when he was only a kid. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Jack has been great for me.

That sounds like an answer that was just waiting to spill out. To start with such a personal response about friendship feels like an accidental tell, as if Rice has been kept this little bromance under wraps for far too long and just couldn’t wait for a chance to declare his feelings to the world. Our man Wilshere has clearly made an impression on Rice.

Rice went on to talk about how Wilshere’s career was racked by injury, denying him international caps and chances at silverware. That, and the fact that he grew up watching Wilshere play against Lionel Messi and other stars has to weigh on Rice’s mind. He has to know what it will be a long, long time before West Ham ever make it back to continental competition, be it the Europa Conference League or anything else. By helpful contrast, Rice has the ageless Mark Noble to listen and learn from. While Noble might wax nostalgic about the glory and loyalty of devoting yourself to one club (although he did spend two years at Hale End), he might also speak wistfully of never having played in the Champions League. At a risk of getting ahead of ourselves, we look like the only London club likely to qualify. 

‘Twixt the two and with West Ham teetering on the edge of relegation, Rice could very well have his head turned should Wilshere continue pouring honey in his ear. We’d probably have to go north of £100m to secure his services, but that once eye-popping figure is quickly becoming a starting point for negotiations rather than a ceiling for fees. Maybe not, though. Chelsea are showing that spending big does not translate to success, at least not directly; and recent relevations at Newcastle and allegations against Man City could have a dampening effect on transfer fees. Hard to say.

We’ll hear more about this little saga for months on end, I’m sure, and it won’t end until one club or another’s official website settles the issue. Until then, let’s hope we can count on our man to get us our man.

Eduardo…Diaby…Ramsey…is Saka next?

It’s common knowledge that every fan thinks it’s their own club the refs are biased against. Very few fans believe in conspiracy theories…unless their club is the target of the conspiracy. However, when it comes to Bukayo Saka, we have more than cognitive dissonance, more than confirmation bias, more than corrupt incompetence (or was it incompetent corruption?). We have ample evidence of the objective variety that there’s something wrong with how he’s being treated by opposing players and by referees. It’s getting to the worrisome point that he may have to suffer some kind of injury before those referees take off the blinders and start holding those players accountable. 

We at the Arsenal know a thing or two or three about what happens when physical crosses the line. Given the sheer number of times Saka gets fouled, it feels like only a matter of time before he suffers actual injury from it. It’s become a regular sight to see Saka trying to take on one (or, more often, two) defenders who resort to fouling him cynically once he quickly and thoroughly and repeatedly makes it clear that they don’t have the minerals to stop him. If it were just the parked busses and packed box-type teams that were hacking at his ankles and yanking at his jersey at just about every turn, we could see it as a compensation for the gap in quality. However, as we saw just two weeks ago, the most-expensive squad in the world had its left back tugging and kicking at and bruising Saka. Just one yellow card after the second or third foul rather than after the fourth or fifth doen’t seem like too much to ask.

When it’s the same player committing the fouls, as it was with Bernardo Silva, the argument for a booking is pretty clear. When it’s the same player getting fouled, the argument is somewhat less clear but still pretty compelling. If a team is targeting one opponent—as so frequently seems to happen to Saka—it is still incumbent to protect the player, to uphold the rules, and to issue consquences. Just how far short is this group of referees falling from clearing that very low bar (I think that mixed metaphor works…). Let’s look at that ample evidence of the objective variety that I mentioned earlier.

Saka has been fouled—excuse me—refs have seen hit to whistle forty fouls on Saka, a meagre fraction of the actual total. Players who have fouled Saka have been cautioned just four times or once for every ten fouls.  Other players in a similar situation enjoy somewhat better protection; I’ll leave it up to each man’s fans to decide whether it’s adequate. Zaha’s assailants have seen nine cards from 57 fouls (one card for every 6.3 fouls). Grealish’s have seen ten cards from 49 fouls (one card for every 4.9 fouls). Grealish, of course, is expert at trailing a leg after he’s gone past a defender to cause the kind of contact that looks like a foul. 

Maybe Manchester has a ref academy?

Grealish is one of the masters of causing that kind of contact, and this might be a factor in the levels of protection he enjoys. If I may be so bold, I’d like to offer another possible factor that does start to sound a bit conspiratorial. Of all of the refs in the Prem, not one is from London despite there being seven London teams in the Prem. There are approximately a dozen from the Manchester area if not Manchester itself. All of the referees are middle-class white men. I’m not crying “racism” here, lest you misread me. All I’m saying is that this lack of diversity among referees may allow some of them to suffer from some subconscious (or conscious) against the player if only because of who he plays for and whom they support. We would need far more-damning evidence before considering the possibility that race is a factor. There is some duck-like walking here and there, but I’ll leave it at that.

We have a preternaturally talented player here, a possibly generational player of the sort we’ll be telling our grandkids about. That can only happen though if Saka gets protection, if referees do their job. Perhaps it’s a bit dramatic of me to invoke the grim spectres of what happened to Eduardo, Diaby, and Ramsey, whose injuries were so gruesome that television stations were reluctant to air replays. Even if Saka’s trajectory is closer to, say Jack Wilshere’s, whose glass ankles were shattered innumerable times until the 19 year old who eviscerated Barcelona ended up missing 159 matches in ten years, preventing him ever fully realising that limitless potential for club or four country.

Of course, if it’s only Arteta who’s complaining, the FA and Prem referees have no real incentive to act. Would Gareth Southgate command more attention? Saka is quite close to being England’s best player. If any of you can ring him up and have him put in a good word for our starboy before it’s too late.

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Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea—vote for Player-Ratings and MOTM!

An entertaining first half saw both Arsenal and Chelsea come agonizingly close on several occasions only to come away empty-handed. In the second half, the story was much the same, and Wilshere lashed it home to make it 1-0. However, minutes later, Hazard offered up his best rendition of a man tripping over an invisible wire, and Anthony Taylor took the bait, awarding a penalty that Hazard himself finished, posing fresh question about Čech’s record of failing to save penalties. Sloppy defending was to blame on the second goal, allowing Alonso to put Chelsea in the 85th minute. Then, just when all hope seemed lost, Bellerin emphatically belted it home on the half-volley in the 92nd minute to equalise. It’s a fortunate result but one well-fought for. Let’s get down to the poll!

Wilshere, our Man of the Match, played a full 90'. End of.

It’s truly hard to get excited about West Ham. Unlike the truly detestables—Chelsea, Stoke, Tottenham—and the plucky admirables—Burnley, Brighton, Southampton—West Ham elicits little more than a mild distaste such as one might experience from room-temperature coffee, stale beer, or toilet paper hung in improper underhand fashion. To therefore suffer a draw is irritating, disappointing, or even chafing, respectively. We should have found the three points. In the short run, we failed to do so, but it was not for a lack of effort on at least one player’s part. In the long run, the fact that Jack Wilshere played a full 90′ for the first time in 577 days should warm your weary heart.

Jack’s been brought along slowly, it’s true, as he’s boosted his confidence and found his fitness while bossing various Europa League matches to the tune of five MOTM awards in our own polling, but it’s one thing to boss BATE Borisov and quite another to do so in the Prem. Add to that the fact that, under Moyes, West Ham are no longer quite the relegation-fodder they once were. In the last ten days, they very nearly earned a draw at the Etihad, blanked Chelsea for a 1-0 win, and again kept a clean sheet against us. Not too shabby.

Against Moyes’s more-organised defensive, a 3-5-2 that looked more like a 5-3-2, we were going to struggle. Moyes sets ups his squads so conservatively that he somehow managed to make Louis Van Gaal look ambitious, even reckless, by contrast. Against big, physical players like Ogbonna, Reid, Cresswell, and Obiang, Arsène was wise to send Giroud out to lead the line. Not only would he grapple with those would-be MMA types, he would create second-chance balls for mates like Wilshere to finish. More on that in a moment.

At a risk of exaggerating, Wilshere showed flashes of the kind of player he might eventually become when he debuted. He was incisive. He was omnipresent. He was assertive. Should he replicate this kind of performance against other Prem teams, we’ll start to enjoy more than the process or the build-up; we’ll get to enjoy the end-product. There was still some rust, to be sure, but this was still the kind of performance that should remind us of what a fully-fit Wilshere can do—and this was not a fully-fit Wilshere. Still, he elevated the entire squad on a day when many looked like they were willing to merely punch the clock.

This is arguably the most-talented squad we’ve seen under Arsène in some time. There are world-class players at several positions. There are exciting up-and-comers at others. However, what’s been lacking—aside from Alexis’s admittedly narcissistic remonstrations—has been a sense of purpose or of passion that enlivens the entire squad. At the most-direct level, both Xhaka and Ramsey have to know that they will at long last have some serious competition. Xhaka in particular will be on notice. If he were a stronger, more-tenacious defender, he could offer a definitive defense of his continued inclusion in the XI. However, neither he nor Wilshere is enough of a defensive force to earn inclusion on that criteria. If Arsène is willing to return to a 4-2-3-1, as he did against West Ham, the weakest link would be Xhaka.

While his skill-set is similar to Wilshere’s, Xhaka offers none of that je ne sais quoi that Wilshere inspires. When Xhaka is on, a creeping, lingering doubt stalks about: will he make a rash tackle and get sent off? Will he kill off an attack by launching a shot into the peanut gallery? Will he make a foolish pass? Wilshere is hardly innocent of such sins—witness his wastefulness of the second-chance that Giroud served up on a silver-platter in the 62nd minute, the one Wilshere sent into that same peanut gallery. However, Wilshere stands alone in his ability to inspire the fan-base (no mean feat at The Emirates) and motivate the squad.

If he can exert the same degree of influence on future matches as he did today, I will gladly take the two points we dropped on Wednesday.

Wilshere’s back. He’s brought some passion, some intensity, some purpose, to a squad that has been lacking in all three.

Welcome back, Jack.

Wilshere looks ready to lay waste to West Ham. Will he? We'll see…

Ah, West Ham. So inept. So backward. Why, they’re the dumping ground for the once-were’s and might’ve-been’s: Joe Hart. Pablo Zabaleta. Chicharito. Andy Carroll. The list goes on. David Moyes. Ah. That last one’s different. After obliging his erstwhile Everton employers with a 4-0 loss at Goodison Park, Mr. Moyes does seem to have set West Ham on a course altogther different from the one on which the Irons had previously been so thoroughly hammered. After a depressing start to the season had seen Slaven Bilić sacked, Moyes has steered West Ham to an impressive resurrection, punctuated all too recently by a 1-0 win over Chelsea on the weekend.

The weekend prior, West Ham went bravely into the Etihad and very nearly found a point, with the hosts needing a late Silva strike to capture all three. The point: these are not last year’s Hammers. Under Moyes, whether you like it or not, they are better organised defensively and, to boot, might start to threaten just a bit more offensively. While it might arouse a few chuckles to mock Carroll or Chicharito, or to exoriate Arnautovic, the harder truth is to admit that Moyes does have a few attacking options that can, on occasion, rise to the—well, to the occasion. Sorry. Painted myself into the corner just a bit there.

Long story short: underestimate this squad at your own peril. There are not many that can come so close to winning at the Etihad and follow that by winning at home over Chelsea. I daresay that, under Moyes, West Ham should very easily clamber out of relegation and might even flirt with relevance.

One need look no further than our own misadventures at the weekend at St. Mary’s, where we came uncomfortably close to going into halftime down 2-0 or even 3-0, to remind ourselves of how the once-mighty might fall. We’ve not been all that overwhelming on the road. Even if West Ham are less intimidating at their new environs than they occasionally were at the Boleyn Ground, we still have our own issues to address. Southampton more or less had their way with us for the first half an hour, and we’ll have to be better than that if we expect to find a point not to mention all three on Wednesday.

To that end, and with another fixture against Newcastle just three days after, we’ll need a bit of rotation of the sort that should invigorate rather than enervate the squad. To wit: Wilshere. He’s looked lively and occasionally influential, and if there’s a time for him to remind us all of what he’s capable of, it will be over the course of the next month or two. What better yoking could there be than of his own future at Arsenal and that of the Arsenal itself? After notching a goal and an assist against BATE Borisov, his introduction against Southampton helped to turn the tide. He’s itching for a Prem start, and it’s on Wednesday that he should get one.

Arsenal 3-0 West Ham (05.04.2017)
West Ham 1-5 Arsenal (03.12.2016)
West Ham 3-3 Arsenal (09.04.2016)

Arsenal have not lost in their last three trips to face West Ham.
Arsenal have scored 11 goals in their last three matches against West Ham.
Arsenal have won 12 of their last 14 matches against West Ham across all competitions.

Cazorla, of course, is ruled out. So too is Ramsey. Mustafi and Walcott face late fitness tests.

Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Chambers; Kolašinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Bellerín; Sánchez, Özil; Giroud.

Although Moyes might have his minions motivated, Arsenal know that they have something to prove.
West Ham 1-3 Arsenal.

Your thoughts? Can Wilshere lead the way Moyes’s Hammers, or will we once slip up yet again?