Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere can flourish on big stage

Arsenal 2 - Manchester City 2

By Paul Smith

Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere will finally fulfil his enormous potential, confounding the many critics who continue to question whether we will ever see the best of him.

The 22-year-old midfielder is frequently at the centre of major debates with some of the country's most respected pundits passing opinion.

What is his best position? Has the ankle injury taken its toll?

Wilshere's response was emphatic on Saturday against Manchester City as he broke from midfield with strength and purpose. He rode potentially threatening tackles, linked up play and rounded off a stellar performance with a sublime finish and assist.

That cancelled out Sergio Aguero's opener and the Gunners went on to take the lead through a fantastic Alexis Sanchez strike. However, Martin Demichelis popped up with a late header to salvage a point.

"You saw the best of Jack Wilshere and why he his such a big asset. It's the type of performance people want to see from him. It puts criticism into perspective when he can play like that," said Wenger. "There is no doubt the ankle injury held him back. For a long time he did not kick the ball well because of his ankle. Now in training, you can see he kicks the ball well and he works on his finishing.

"I don't necessarily agree you can explain his performance by the criticism he has received because he is very driven and wants to be successful. As a footballer you have to respond to critics in public and when you have so much talent and people question that the only way you can do that is to go out on the pitch and show your talent and show how good you are.

"Jack has his confidence back, you can see that. He stays on his feet which is a big difference as well even when tackles were flying in. When he was not as confident he would push on his ankle and go down on his body. Now he is more solid in that aspect."

Nonetheless consistency going forward will be vital if Wilshere is to keep the critics off his back.

If he fails to produce a similar performance against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League tomorrow night, don't be surprised to find the critics on his back again.

"Consistency is always going to be the key," insists Wenger. "He needs a run of games to get his sharpness back but he knows the level he wants to be at and the type of performance that not only satisfies him but those who sometimes want to criticise him."

There has been much debate about the role Wilshere was deployed in for England. Many think it doesn't play to his strengths as a holding midfielder but Wenger feels he can adapt.

"Jack has a very good football brain so he can adapt and play in that role. But it suits him naturally to win the ball and dribble in front of the defence.

"He is at his best when he is penetrating in the finale third but then again I am not against him playing elsewhere."

Another player who has received criticism is Wilshere's team-mate, the German World Cup winning midfielder Mesut Ozil.

"I don't know why but people will always have this kind of attitude about him. He always works hard and plays well. You always see a good Ozil when you watch any game again," said Wenger.

"Then you realise his timing, his quality of the pass. You can get frustrated during a game but you must not over-react. When you watch the game again, you see what a good player he is."

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