Jack Wilshere put in a solid ninety minutes for Arsenal’s U21 side against Stoke City alongside fellow first teamers Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta as he steps up his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in November. It was the trio’s first appearances for the club in 2015.
Arsenal’s reserve side ran out comfortable 4-1 winners despite falling a goal behind early on in proceedings. An emphatic hat-trick from promising striker Alex Iwobi and a rebound finish from substitute Stephy Mavididi handed Steve Gatting’s side a comfortable win.
The 2,600 strong crowd at Emirates (£4 entry, bargain!) shifted in their seat with every classic Wilshere burst through the middle and left the attending fans satisfied after a decent performance from the England international.
There were certainly signs of rustiness – as would be expected – but Wilshere ran much of the Gunners’ attacks through the middle of the park drawing fouls, distributing well to other promising young players in Serge Gnabry and Dan Crowley. Wilshere claimed an assist for Arsenal’s third goal, while putting in some excellent tackles throughout. He meant business and certainly took the game seriously.
It was not necessarily a masterclass from the Arsenal No.10, but an encouraging display on his journey back to match fitness nevertheless. Stoke offered him a lot of respect at times, but Wilshere offered Arsenal composure in the middle and was always looked to break down the visitors defence.
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Afterward he spoke to Arsenal’s official website, and claimed he is ready to play a part in the Gunners season run-in:
You can train as much as you like but you can’t get that match fitness unless you play.
In the Premier League you know how quick it is so you have to get back to that speed.
I feel like I’m ready to play some part. When you’re injured you look at your comeback date and the games around that time.
The one that stands out is the FA Cup semi-final but even before that we’ve got big games and we’ve got to got to Man United as well so there’s a chance to play this season.
Elsewhere, Diaby managed a solid 72 minutes before being replaced (un-injured), with Areta lasting to just before the hour. The former certainly looked strong but clearly tentative in the tackle. Arteta however had a few moments to forget, including one particularly poorly weighted header that led to a Stoke City attack. However, the club captain looked assured in possession in the second period and offered a solid shield for the back line.
I was a little disappointed with Crowley, who looked from afar like a miniature Wilshere, but was only able to involve himself in the game in patches from his position on the left. Perhaps that was almost to be expected considering the wealth of talent through the middle.
It was also good to see new signing Krystian Bielik take to the pitch. The defensive midfielder was played at centre half and had a reasonably solid game. Unfortunately, stand-in reserve goalkeeper Iliev made a mess of a routine collection from a cross; otherwise it was a relatively lacklustre attacking performance from The Potters.
It will be good to see Jack return to the first team soon given his talent, but it’s fair to say that both Diaby and Arteta have a fight on their hands to edge their way back into the squad.