There's no hiding the wonder of Jack Wilshere
LET'S be calm and quiet, said Arsene Wenger, but any chance the Arsenal manager had of dampening Arsenal fans rising expectations over Jack Wilshere were well and truly sunk by the teenager s weekend displays. A man of the match performance – despite
LET'S be calm and quiet," said Arsene Wenger, but any chance the Arsenal manager had of dampening Arsenal fans' rising expectations over Jack Wilshere were well and truly sunk by the teenager's weekend displays.
A man of the match performance - despite only playing for 45 minutes - in the 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday was followed by two goals and another man of the match display on Sunday in the 3-0 demolition of Rangers. It was quite a 48 hours for the player who is still only 17 and not really a man at all.
"Let's be calm and quiet," Wenger tried, when asked about Wilshere possibly still having time to force his way into Fabio Capello's England squad for a little tournament in South Africa next summer.
"The World Cup is next year, there's still a year to go so let's first see how Jack improves. Let's not make stars from two games.
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"You have to respect the development of the players. The only problem in England, knowing the impatience of English people, is it will be difficult to keep the right pace of his progress."
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If the weekend's Emirates Cup is anything to go by then that progress has accelerated quite a bit since the then 16-year-old was handed his Premier League debut as a substitute at Blackburn almost a year ago.
That nine-minute cameo remains his only exposure in the top flight but after he led Arsenal Under-18s to FA Youth Cup glory back in May, it seems the midfielder, now 17, is ready to step up a level, and this time permanently.
He was expecting to be named in England's Under-21 squad this week, and although Wenger did his best to calm the growing expectation of his young starlet on Sunday, it is hard not to see him pushing for a first team place this season.
"It is difficult to say how much he will play," said Wenger cagily. "I build him, put him in the dressing room at 16 years of age to give him a chance to practise every day with first-team players.
"He has benefited a lot from that special treatment, an acceleration of his education."
That was certainly in evidence on Sunday, as Wilshere looked superb playing in an almost old-fashioned inside-right position behind the striker in Wenger's 4-3-2-1 formation.
He was full of menace, darting in behind Eduardo and down the flank, but also dropping back deep into his own half to pick up the ball and run at a Rangers side who seemed almost transfixed by his youthful exuberance.
After 90 seconds he was on the scoresheet, drilling home a low left-footed shot after sublime build-up play between Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin.
Better was to come just before half-time when he juggled the ball away from two Rangers defenders and then tried to beat Alan McGregor with an audacious chip that the Scottish keeper did well to tip over the bar.
McGregor could get nowhere the near the half-volleyed finish for Wilshere's second and Arsenal's third goal though, finished with a clinical calmness almost unnatural for one so young in front of 56,000 fans.
Wenger used him sparingly last season, but suddenly the Gunners boss has a plethora of options for what looks to be his favoured formation for the season ahead.
On Saturday Robin van Persie was the lone striker, flanked by Tomas Rosicky and Nicklas Bendtner in support.
On Sunday Eduardo was played at the top of the 'christmas tree' with Arshavin and Wilshere in behind, and that looked a potent attacking trio.
The injured Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby are other options, as are Denilson and Aaron Ramsey - but with Fabregas pushing forward from the midfield three, Wenger ideally needs two players to sit in front of the back four.
Alex Song would appear to be the player best suited to one of those roles, and Wenger is not alone in thinking that Patrick Vieira looks ideal to be the other.
The former skipper is almost twice Wilshere's age, but it is the blend of youth and experience that has been so missing from Arsenal in recent years. When the business end of the season has approached, Arsenal's kids have been found wanting, and as a result have won nothing.
Wilshere has the world at his feet, but he could still learn so much from a player like Vieira, who has already conquered it.