25th April 2016: Wenger on Sunderland + Wilshere on comeback

Welcome back. It turns out Arsenal aren’t the only bottlers in north London after all, because Tottenham hilariously failed to beat West Brom at home tonight, which means a win for Leicester at Manchester United on Sunday, or defeat for Sp*rs at Chelsea a day later, will see the Foxes crowned champions.

As far as we’re concerned, tonight’s 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane leaves the door to second place slightly ajar, when just yesterday it appeared locked, bolted and more inpenetrable than a back four of Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn. It’s still unlikely we’ll finish runners-up of course, but now ever-so-slightly more feasible.

I suppose to make it happen we’ll have to be calm and collected in our final three games (as well as far more creative and clinical in the final third), something Arsene Wenger reckons we weren’t at Sunderland yesterday afternoon. Speaking to Arsenal Player, the boss said:

I think we played very well in the first half. Unfortunately we couldn’t take our chances and in the second half we dropped a little bit physically, because we played three games in seven days and our cohesion was less good. We didn’t make enough with the possession we had and the chances we created, so we have to be supportive of the team at the moment and keep going. I think we had very good opportunities. We didn’t look calm enough when we had the chances. Sometimes we gave the ball a bit late but overall I think the first half was very interesting.

That’s one way to sum it up I suppose. Another though, would be to say we were less sh*t in the first half than we were in the second, were barely threatening as an attacking force for most of the game, fielded a midfielder who can’t pass in Aaron Ramsey, a striker who can’t score in Olivier Giroud, and in the end, had Petr Cech to thank for avoiding defeat against a team who began the game in the relegation zone.

Moving swiftly on and onto rare positive from yesterday’s game – Jack Wilshere’s first competitive appearance this season. The midfielder spoke to Arsenal Player after making a late cameo as a substitute in place of an off-colour Mesut Ozil and expressed his joy at making his long-awaited return to first-team football. He said:

It’s the best feeling. All those late nights and long days in the gym, this is when it really pays off. You can do all the training, you can play for the under-21s to build your fitness up, but what really matters is playing for the first team and getting back on the pitch, so I’m really happy. I felt good. In my first under-21s game, I didn’t really feel that great. In the second I felt better and in the third I felt as though I was able to get through 90 minutes and have an impact on the game. I spoke with the boss in the week, he felt the same and I travelled to Sunderland. It’s a big week for me in training, getting fitter and sharper. Hopefully next weekend I can get some more game time and go from there. I’m not saying that I’m there yet, this is just another step on my way to full recovery. There’s a few games left and after that, hopefully I’ll go away with England to the Euros. It’s an exciting time.

Needless to say if anyone (bar poor Abou obviously) deserves a bit of luck with staying injury-free from now on it’s Jack. And given Arsene seems to have grown bored with a double-defensive bolt, benching Francis Coquelin as he has in our last two games, perhaps Wilshere might be afforded a start in central midfield alongside Mohamed Elneny before the season’s out. I hope so.

Back tomorrow.

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