Jack Wilshere stakes his Arsenal claim in Barnet friendly win

Jack Wilshere showed just what he can bring to Arsenal this season as the Gunners recorded an impressive first pre-season win.

It has almost become impossible to find a dissenter to the view that England have had their most gifted footballers of a generation compete for world football’s biggest prize however this summer’s failings in South Africa have shown that, that may not be the case. English youth coaching guru John Cartwright insists English football’s most outstanding individualists such as Paul Gascoigne and Joe Cole have emerged in spite of the system, not because of it but in the case of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, that is all but false.

Wilshere holds the new generation’s most gifted talent but he is in no doubt as to the work Arsenal coaches Steve Bould and Neil Banfield have put in. “They deserve a lot of credit,” says Wilshere. “People say, ‘Arsenal’s youth set-up is good’, but they’re good coaches as well. They’re focused. You wouldn’t want to muck around or let them down.” Indeed, Wilshere’s football education represents a triumph of letting individuality express itself but in the past few seasons, most notably in the loan spell at Bolton, he has added a tactical steel into his game. Under Owen Coyle, the precocious attacking-midfielder was forced to reign his naturalistic tendencies as the club fought to retain their league status and as a result Wilshere looked an artist lost in a sea of pragmatists.

And at Barnet, Arsene Wenger looked to see just how much the playmaker has come on mentally as he deployed him in a deeper role, just to the left side of Emmanuel Frimpong. Wilshere showed none of the vagaries of an attacking style that has beset Arsenal for the last few season and put in a disciplined first-half shift. Arsenal’s pressing game demands the ball to be won back quickly but early on realised the virtue of dropping back to make a double shield just to retain the shape. In attack, Wilshere has the Cesc Fabregas-like capacity to turn the probing into the direct, as he, along with Andrey Arshavin, posed the Barnet defence with constant problems. “I’ve got a very good burst and that’s important to how I play,” Wilshere told The Times last year. “The boss wants you to go forward all the time and that suits my game. When I get the ball my first thought is, ‘Can I pass forward?’ If not then maybe I can travel with it. If not, then sideways.”

It was Tomas Rosicky and Arshavin who combined to make the first goal as the Russian tip-toed past the goalkeeper Cole, to impudently stroll the ball into the net. Great interchange between the front three and Rosicky and Wilshere was the order of the half and a number of quick one-touch passing moves typified a very impressive opening period. The energetic Jay Simpson scored the second and third as good running from Wilshere again created the goals.

Simpson, fighting for his Gunners future after delaying it with a good showing last pre-season, was mightily impressive in linking up play and his tireless work across the channels. The biggest surprise however was Frimpong who was measured in his approach at patrolling the centre, picking of his opponents with ease. It was not quite the dominance Francis Coquelin displayed two seasons ago at the same venue but after a nervous start, he realised the importance of the quick pass – although sometimes a bit too premeditated. Jay-Emmanuel Thomas worked hard on the right and helped stretch play although perhaps slightly predictable in his outcome. At the back, Laurent Koscielny had a mixed game, making some neat interceptions but at the same time, played in a nonchalant and carefree manner. The second half expectedly entered a slight lull but not before Marouane Chamakh showed just how suited he is to Arsenal’s game and Conor Henderson displaying some delightful touches. Samir Nasri punished lax Barnet defending to finish off an easy win.

Arsenal’s basic shape remained the 4-3-3 from last season although in placing greater emphasis on the importance of bands, could fluctuate between a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-2-3-1 (as detailed in figure 1 below). Impressively also, was the intensity Arsenal pressed, despite it being the first game of the summer. Of course, the ease in which the Gunners picked off Barnet can be attributed to the quality they were facing, nevertheless, there is no need to divulge into the weaknesses and strengths of their opponents as it was essentially a practice game. Yet, in a sense it was the perfect pre-season performance. There are mental hurdles Arsenal that will need to address if they are to win the title to augment their infinite technical ability but in terms of sticking to the game plan and understanding their roles and responsibilities, it was the start Arsene Wenger could have wished for.

<Figure 1> Arsenal’s first-half formation v Barnet: The dashed arrows represent defensive duties while the plain white lines display attacking movements. A loose 4-3-3 in the attacking phase with Rosicky pushing higher up and Arshavin roaming centrally, the onus is on Frimpong to patrol the centre (therefore a 4-1-4-1 with play fixating around Simpson’s movement). IN the defensive phase Jack Wilshere is assigned to cover the space behind Arshavin and can also drop back to make a double shield. Rosicky is finally detailed to move to the right of Frimpong to make a 4-3-3. Pressing starts with the front five players with only Simpson not detailed to drop back if required.


18 thoughts on “Jack Wilshere stakes his Arsenal claim in Barnet friendly win

  1. I feel like Fabregas, Wilshere should be used as close as possible to the opposition goal. That means playing at AM or LF (to allow Walcott to play on the opposite side and stop the play from becoming too narrow). His ability to play the killer pass would be wasted in a deeper, box-to-box role.

    I was impressed with Simpson and I do feel sometimes Arsene lets the younger players go too early. It’s perfectly conceivable that Simpson may gradually add to his game and become a solid Premier League-standard performer by the time he’s 24/25. We need those calibre of players for the bench, a bit like how Man Utd use O’Shea and co.

    1. The problem now is the 25 player squad rule, which makes it difficult to keep a player over 21 if he is not quite ready for the first team, because he is then using up a precious space in the squad. Most players will not accept being loaned out until 24/25 although there are players who peak at a later age such as Ian Wright.

      1. Yes, that is a problem that we’d have to work around. I like how they do things in Spain, with B teams playing in the lower leagues and the frequent usage of buy-back clauses (particularly by Real Madrid) to effectively “loan” players out for a few seasons before passing a decision on whether they’re good enough.

  2. Great article. I was massivley impressed with young Jack. He looked so comfortable on the ball and made the right passing decisions, even if it meant hanging onto the ball for quite some time – waiting for the gaps to appear. Very Cesc-like… The 2nd assist was lovely too, rather than going for goal, knew that Simpson was at the far post and without even looking, first time reverse-passed it for an easy tap-in. Top quality. I hope he keeps that kind of composure when playing the bigger boys! I am still concerned about our GK spot though. If we dont buy this year, it could be another nail biting season..!

    1. Wilshere and Simpson seem to have a good understanding. I’ve seen that combination work effectively on more than one occasion.

  3. By the look of things, I think Wenger may be trying to get jack into the first team while still playing cesc in his best role. If anything, diaby has got some competition. Though as much as I want the best for wilshere, I would rather have diaby play in that role. What diaby offers is pretty unique where as wilshere would be cesc mkII (yes i am exaggerating) but playing deeper.

  4. I twice noticed Chamakh receive a pass in the offensive phase and in the final third, lay off a pass, and then sprint (yes sprint) into a deeper position. I thought that was interesting.

    In both cases either Nasri or Henderson had run past him, and my guess was he was dropping deep to cover.

    Did you notice this, The Brain?

    What do you make of it?

    1. Maybe he was also trying to draw his marker towards him and vacate a gap for Nasri/Henderson to run into? Against teams that play two lines of 4 we need intelligent movement to draw players out of position and create space in what’s otherwise a congested area. I read that Chamakh’s strike partners over the last 5 years have all managed 20+ goals a season (I haven’t checked if it’s true though), if he makes a habit of making intelligent runs like that then we’ll find it much easier to break down those stubborn teams. Apart from Walcott we don’t really have a player who makes excellent runs off the ball, back when we had Bergkamp, Pires, Ljungberg etc. it was one of our strongest points.

    2. I couldnt see the game, but from what I have seen of Chamakh, I can confidently say that his game is based on movement. He likes to drop deep, with the other attackers surging past him and then he goes forward to utilise the space created by him dropping deep. He is good at interchanging and very sharp in sniffing space around the box(his movement towards the wings is quite interesting too).
      Another interesting aspect of his game is that he drops very deep, nearly to the halfline during goalkicks to flick on to other players who move ahead of him. Could be an effective ploy at Arsenal. Imagine him linking up with Cesc, RVP and Arshavin!

    3. I don’t think it’s a particular tactic to cover for someone – it is partly about looking to create space for others as is Arsenal’s tactic but it looked also part of his naturalistic tendency to drop short and look for the return pass. He dragged a player out and by dropping short found space for himself. Quite unorthodox actually and it’ll be very interesting to see in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Its only one game but two problems from last season persisted.

    1. The holding player (this time Frimpong) gets sucked into midfield and tries to win tackles all over the field instead of HOLDING. This leaves the team vulnerable to the counter. He won most of his tackles so in this game it wasn’t a big issue but against better teams this needs to be corrected.

    2. The left back is still very vulnerable because the formation is lopsided. The MCL is expected to do help out the DM and the left back at the same time. Clichy was exposed last season by good wingers because of this weakness in the formation. A mor energetic player and defensively aware player may be needed in this position.

  6. I thnk jack is a very gud player, very skillful, it’s also a dribbler and an attack minded guy, i thnk he has nw got d cnfidence, he shouldn’t go on loan, i thnk ars stil need a defender and a keeper.

  7. Very intreesting game. 2nd half dropped a little though.

    Wilsheres link up with Arsh and also Simpson was superb. Frimpong did very very well in that role looks a real prospect full of energy and some technically perfect tackles.

    I hope we keep Jay Simpson he works hard and can finish. Just because he isn’t this hybrid false 9 type doesn’t mean there is no room for him in our squad. Let’s face it we have 3 strikers who are barely fit in Eduardo, RVP and Bendtner so having someone like Simpson is no bad thing.

  8. I was impressed with the movement of Walcott this time and maybe ArsenalColumn could write an article with graphic explaining this.
    Walcott often gets isolated out on the wing and always at some point during a match the game just seems to pass him by, or he is too heavily marked that he can’t do anything with the ball except pass it backwards.

    During the Barnet game he pushed on and played as a striker sometimes which was fantastic to see. He drifted across the Barnet backline pulling them out of position or made darting diagonal runs in behind always looking for the through ball. It gives our attack a new deadly option which we lacked before and will work perfectly with either Chamack or v.Persie, Bendtner too but less so.

    Formation wise it was interesting to see the fluid adaption to the movement as playing with 2 up top meant either the RB advanced into the space left by Walcott, with Nasri in the hole and Barazite on the left, and then Lansbury and Henderson as 2 deep lying playmakers. Or Nasri drifts to the right, Barazite in the middle and Gibbs marauding forward. Chamack would drop off a little looking to flick the ball on or make runs into the box when a cross comes in. The Formation remains balanced. There is good defensive cover and options to either side.
    The success it had against Barnet was only limited because of the personel. Imagine the same thing with the first teamers.

    1. Good analysis. The tactic you’ve just detailed is why Wenger rates Walcott so highly and an example of the success he had for England until the side and he, to be honest, became rigid.

      – The plan is for Waclott too stretch the play high and wide and with his and the forwards’ movement, act as a wide striker. Of course, another area of his game which is very under appreciated is his tracking back although at the same time, still lacking concentration issues. I will try and do an article on that.

  9. Thanks the Brain, that would be fantastic as your analysis’ are always so clear and comprehensive.
    Bring the conversation back to Wilshere, i think he is ready now for at least 10 prem starts and the same or more as a sub for us. Similar to what Rambo was achieving last season. And thank God we didn’t sign J.Cole, Wilshere is the better player and needs to play football with US.

  10. 1st Team:
    Sagna – Koscielny – Vemalean – Clichy
    Song – Diaby
    VanPersie – Fabregas – Arshavin

    2nd Team:
    Eboue – Djourou – Nordtveit – Gibbs(Traore)
    Denilson – Ramsey
    Walcot – Nasri – Vela(Wilshere)

    Almunia and Rosicky can be kept as back up for a year or 2.

    3rd Team:
    Eastmond – Bartley – Miquel – Botelho(Cruise)
    Frimpong – Coquelin(Henderson)
    (Watt)Barazite – Lansbury(Randall) – Welington Silva(J.E.Thomas)

    And There’s Still More We Dont Need 2 Buy Any More We Are Settled 4 Time. (we can just get very young players only) wenger wud love 2 hear that.

  11. This is a really excellent blog.

    Granted, what follows is nothing more than a shameless attempt to grab a little extra traffic for my own Arsenal blog, but I was wondering wether you be interested in sharing a link to my site in your blog-roll. You’d be doing me a huge favour (yours is already on mine).

    Also, I agree that Primpong’s performance have come as something of a surprise. He appears very assured and classy in his distribution. He seems to have beefed himself up a little and I hope we see more of him against a higher calibre of opposition.

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