Wilshere nearly back to his best – Wenger
Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere is almost back to his best after the England midfielder fired Arsenal into the last 16 of the Champions League with his first goal for two years.
Wilshere had been making steady progress after returning to action in October following foot and knee injuries that sidelined him for 14 months, but Wenger was looking for a really dynamic display from the 20-year-old to prove he had shaken off any lingering rust and he delivered against Montpellier on Wednesday.
In his fifth club appearance since the end of his injury nightmare, Wilshere gave a vibrant display capped with a cool finish with the outside of his left foot that finally broke the deadlock in the 49th minute at the Emirates Stadium.
A blistering volley from Lukas Podolski 14 minutes later sealed a win that guaranteed Arsenal’s progress to the knockout stages for the 13th successive season.
But just as important for Wenger, as he looks to build a new Arsenal following so many big-name exits over the last 18 months, was Wilshere’s influential performance against the French champions.
“I’m pleased. After such a long time out it’s great to see him getting stronger and stronger,” Wenger said.
“He had a difficult start to the match but he got better and after the goal he was more confident.
“He defended well also, which was pleasing because he has to be a complete midfielder, not purely an offensive player.
“The goals will come naturally, he shouldn’t worry about that. He is not far from his best now, although I still have to manage his levels.”
At a time when Wenger and his club are often under-fire after seven years without a trophy, the Arsenal boss took great pride in his team’s continued presence in the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition.
“I’m very proud, it is not the most glamorous achievement but it is hard to do.
“If you look all over Europe there are not many teams doing it,” he said.