Following his impressive display against Sunderland last time out, Jack Wilshere continued where he left off with another standout playmaking performance as Bournemouth narrowly prevailed away against Stoke on Saturday.
He completed the full 90 minutes once more, suggesting his level of fitness is gradually improving week-by-week, something he wouldn’t have been able to say if he remained at Arsenal this past summer with a lack of adequate match practice under his belt.
Against Sunderland, he was more adventurous in the sense that he completed a number of take-ons. This time, against Stoke, he adapted his playing style slightly to create more chances for team-mates, avoiding situations where he could’ve been fouled or dispossessed previously.
After just eleven minutes, Bournemouth’s first notable chance of the game was created and Wilshere was at the heart of it.
Following Nathan Aké’s headed clearance into midfield, Jack jumped and won the ball cleanly away from the high boot of Joe Allen, before taking a touch to control the ball and looking up for passing options. In-front of him he spotted the run made by Callum Wilson, threaded an inviting pass towards the forward, but the opportunity was squandered in dubious fashion.
Ryan Shawcross’s sliding challenge from behind halted Wilson just as he shaped to shoot goalwards, and although the referee waved play on, replays showed there was no contact from the defender on the ball, meaning a penalty definitely should’ve been awarded.
Even Stoke agreed:
Just two minutes later, Jack combined with Wilson again on the edge of the area before threading through a low pass into the path of Joshua King. His close-range effort was denied by a good reflex save from Lee Grant and Wilshere was at the heart of the visitors’ early dominance.
Aké headed home from a free-kick just before the half-hour mark after lackadaisical marking in the area, and Stoke’s attacking influence started to grow as the game wore on. Wilshere’s influence didn’t stagnate though, as he looked a composed figure on the ball and equally effective out of possession, something that has been seen with encouraging frequency over the past few months.
In the 58th minute, he delivered an excellent lofted ball into the area for Wilson to strike goalwards. The motion to swing a pass of that quality into the box was almost nonchalant, effortless even, but Wilson cut a frustrated figure as he watched his headed effort trickle wide when he really should’ve tested Grant.
Xherdan Shaqiri blazed over the crossbar, Jonathan Walters’ header was straight at Adam Federici, but Wilshere was unlucky not to seal all three points with what would’ve been a worthy winner in the 90th minute. After Benik Afobe weaved past two defenders, he passed across the box and Wilshere curled a fierce strike goalwards – but watched with his hands on his head as the effort hit the post.
It’s a pleasure to watch Wilshere play, and when he’s performing like this, it justifies the many reasons why Arsène has fought hard to keep him as an Arsenal player.