Many have argued over the last few days that Wilshere’s red card, last Saturday, was a result of fatigue/ lacking match fitness, and/or that Wenger was to blame for not substituting him earlier. No doubt, he was suffering from rustiness, and Evra overreacted of course for Jack’s second yellow card, but I fully understand why Arsene did not want to substitute one of his very few extroverted warriors on the pitch at Old Toilet.
I have stated on more than one occasion that I reckon our current players do not suffer from a lack of attitude or hunger to win. We have a good bunch of players who work hard and want to succeed, but confidence is low at the moment, as a result of our system not working properly and a few players lacking top form.
Everybody is trying hard to get better, and although this is vitally important; it is not enough. I feel at times we are being too introverted, too quiet, and too nice to our opponents on the pitch.
Without doubt there are new language barriers to be overcome, and as Arsenal are fitting in new players, it takes time for them to gain the confidence again to shout at each other, to openly motivate each other, to come out of their individual shells and command their area of the pitch. A lack of success currently does not help either.
Surely, we will improve in these areas, but we also need a bit more healthy aggression and extravert leadership on the pitch.
At the moment, we have too many players who are just focussing on their own performance; on their own role and responsibilities, and however understandable this is, we need more open leadership all over the pitch.
Arteta, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Gibbs, and to a certain extent Ramsey and Sagna are by nature more extravert, and therefore communicate more loudly with their fellow players. Szczesny has this too and Mannone is growing in confidence and is becoming clearly more vociferous. Vermaelen, as a player, was good at this too, but as a captain he is struggling both in leading the team and performing his own CB duties to the required levels at the moment.
Against MU we really lacked extravert leadership and more than just a bit of healthy aggression.
Prior to the game on Saturday, Arsenal had collected a meagre six yellow cards and no red cards in nine PL games. I don’t want us to become a nasty team, but getting less than one yellow card per game is telling us something about our levels of aggression at the moment.
As it stands, MU have collected 100% more yellow cards than Arsenal: 18 to 9. We have the one red card now and the Mancs have not collected a red card yet, but that should not come as a surprise… Chelsea have collected 14 yellow cards and two red cards, the Spuds 13Y/1R, Everton 19Y/1R and Liverpool 14Y/2R, and only Fulham, Man City and a few bottom of the league clubs have shown similar levels of disciplinary prowess; or should that be lack of aggression?! For me, it is the latter: we need more bite in this team. Only Arteta has collected more than one yellow card in the PL this season!!
Wilshere sensed this on Saturday and was determined to change it, and just for that I love him.
He will become 21 in January ‘13, but having missed out well over a year through injury, he is effectively only 19; in terms of football experience. Yet, he is simply born with extravert leadership skills and with a hunger to fight and win every time. And he is a definite Arsenal and England captain for the future for me.
He showed the others that sometimes you have to put your foot in, to do more than just your tactical/technical job, and to fight for the pride of the shirt and your own, personal honour. He is clearly also a very good footballer and as a result he will quickly gain the respect of the senior players in the squad again.
With a bit of luck they will follow his lead more and more, and the team will find a healthier balance between good tactical and technical football – which in itself needs further improvement – and playing with the right level of aggression and leadership on the pitch.
I am sure Wenger is sensing this too and, like all of us, he will be praying that JW10 will remain fit for the rest of the season.