Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Wilshere needs to be built up slowly: Arsene Wenger

Tough tussle: Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Crystal Palace midfielder Joe Ledley battle for the ball at the Emirates

A new season is a time of hope in football, but it does not take long for doubts to intrude. They muscled their way in at Crystal Palace even before the opening day when Tony Pulis walked out. Saturday's last-minute defeat at the Emirates intensified concerns. Palace were organised and spirited but the unresolved limitations in the playing staff, which appear to have prompted their erstwhile manager's exit, were clear.

The furrowed brows were not restricted to the losers' dressing room. Arsenal were delighted to snatch a late win but one of their players may have suffered dark thoughts.

Jack Wilshere was once England's and Arsenal's great hope, the coming man. He has since been overtaken at club level by Aaron Ramsey and with his country by Ross Barkley.

Wilshere, after an ineffectual hour, was withdrawn on Saturday long before Arsenal won the match. This was, said Arsene Wenger, because the midfielder was short of sharpness due to illness last week. "He was sick in the last few days and I felt he started to miss his competitiveness," said the manager.

The 22-year-old has had a series of injuries in the last two years and Wenger said: "Let's give him games, he has to build up slowly."

Wilshere will need to maintain that improvement as Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski will soon be back in contention after being given an extended break following Germany's World Cup success. They will join a crowded pool of midfielders that besides Wilshere and Ramsey includes Mikael Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini.

Palace's next manager can only dream of choosing from such quality. Steve Parish, the co-chairman, denied a dispute over transfer policy drove Pulis to quit but did concede "there were a lack of targets the manager felt were good enough", which suggests recruitment was the issue.

Parish said he hoped to make an appointment this week but all but dismissed caretaker boss Keith Millen's application, made to the media after the match, when he told Match of the Day he wanted someone with "intimate experience" of the Premier League.

Malky Mackay, sacked by Cardiff City last season, remains favourite.

Brede Hangeland, scored a surprisingly rare goal to put the visitors ahead. But Arsenal scored twice following set plays through Koscielny and, at the death, Ramsey. The Welshman has now scored 18 goals in the last 12 months. During that time, Wilshere has scored once which highlights one obvious area in which he needs to improve.

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