Saturday, 9 April 2016

Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky in action for Arsenal Under-21s

LONDON -- Jack Wilshere stepped up his long-awaited injury comeback by playing 65 minutes for Arsenal's under-21s on Friday, his first game action of the season. Wilshere looked a bit cautious in the first half of the 3-1 win against Newcastle at the Emirates, before showing more of his usual willingness to drive forward after the break in an encouraging display for both Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson. Wilshere's movement showed no signs of the fractured ankle that has ruled him out since August, and his touch has not deserted him either. His fighting spirit also looked intact, as he angrily squared up to a Newcastle player in the second half in a minor dispute. Wilshere should have had an assist when he sent Stephy Mavididi clear on goal after a quick burst forward, but the striker shot wide. Tomas Rosicky, who also made his return from a thigh injury, did set up Mavididi for Arsenal's second goal in the first half with a perfect through-ball. The Czech Republic midfielder impressed before being taken off at half-time and nearly created a second goal for Mavididi as well, but the striker was questionably ruled offside. Serge Gnabry, who hasn't made any of Wenger's squads since being recalled from an unsuccessful loan spell at West Bromwich Albion in January, also started for the Gunners and made it 3-1 before the break with a low composed finish. But the main focus was on Wilshere, who drew negative headlines throughout the week after being caught up in a nightclub fracas but is desperate to prove his fitness in time to earn a spot in Hodgson's European Championship squad. And the midfielder showed he is on the right track -- although this was hardly an exhaustive workout for him.
Wilshere had a tentative start to the game as he seemed largely content with sitting back in a deeper role in central midfield in the first half. He was also understandably cautious to commit fully in most challenges, but did show his normal delicate touch with the ball on several occasions. The 24-year-old was more lively after the break, shooting wide from distance early on and getting more involved in the Arsenal attack. Wilshere suddenly looked more like his usual self -- for good and bad. He showed his quick feet by dribbling through two defenders to launch a quick attack at one point, but also showed his hot headedness by facing off with Newcastle captain Henri Saivet after a collision in midfield, earning a talking to from referee Lee Venamore. Rosicky's performance was also impressive as the playmaker found his rhythm after a couple of early heavy touches. His pass for Mavididi's goal was perfectly weighted and he also set up Gnabry for a good chance. Rosicky missed the first half of the season with a serious knee injury before making his comeback in January -- only to sustain a serious thigh problem in his first appearance. Rosicky, who is out of contract in the summer, is still hoping he hasn't made his last Arsenal appearance and wants to captain the Czech team in France for what is likely his last major tournament. Dan Crowley -- who has often drawn comparisons to Wilshere -- scored Arsenal's first goal with an impressive solo effort as he dribbled past two defenders in the area before slotting a shot past goalkeeper Nathan Harker. Krystian Bielik scored an own-goal to make it 2-1 before Gnabry netted with a well-taken shot after bursting down the left flank.