Monday, November 28, 2022

Gabriel Jesus scores in pre-season win : Jack Wilshere retires

Morning all. A quick Saturday round-up for you.

Pre-season began in earnest with a 5-3 win over FC Nurnberg yesterday. I didn’t watch it live as I was otherwise engaged, but did watch highlights. 2-0 down at the break, we brought on Gabriel Jesus and his goal inside 90 seconds showed you what he’ll bring to the team.

Alert and quick to snaffle the ball after a poor touch from the defender, he drove towards the box, combined with Eddie Nketiah and smashed the ball home in unerring fashion at the near post. It was just quality centre-forward play and that ability to drop deep but also end up in the opposition box is a bit of a game changer in terms of this team’s playing style.

Mohamed Elneny then got in on the act with a screamer from distance; what went down as two own goals came after really good work from Eddie Nketiah; the home side got another; before Jesus grabbed his second, and what a beautiful finish it was from a Gabriel Martinelli cross, flicked in at the near post to make it 5-3.

Obviously, it’s pre-season and you can’t get too worked up about it, but it does whet the appetite for the new season to think we’ve got a new centre-forward who can do what Jesus did yesterday. Of course he has to do it against better opposition in more important games, but it was fun to see him make his mark on his first non-competitive game in red and white.

Afterwards, Mikel Arteta said:

“He’s all energy. You see his enthusiasm, he’s always smiling, he’s always talking to his teammates and apart from that I think he brings a different level of desire and commitment and enthusiasm, so I think it’s really good.

“That’s why we brought him here. to put the ball in the back of the net and obviously for his confidence and for him to believe in what we are doing I think it’s really important and he’s settled really well.”

Elsewhere, Kieran Tierney’s brief cameo had people worried he’d picked up an injury, but the manager explained:

“Obviously he’s been out for over three months now so we wanted to give him a proper warm-up, play the first half an hour and then get him out.

“So he was in good condition and there’s no issues there.”

Next up in pre-season, it’s Everton in Baltimore next weekend, but there’s still plenty do on the training ground, and hopefully in the transfer market, as the preparations for the new season continue.

Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere yesterday announced his retirement from professional football, and it didn’t really come as any surprise. He spent time with us last season, training with the first team, but there was never any suggestion he might be offered a short-term contract. In the end he played some games for Aarhus GF in Denmark, and yesterday in a statement revealed he’d be hanging up his boots.

There’s no doubt about his talent, he was certainly one of the best players to emerge from our Academy in years when he made his breakthrough and his debut in 2008, but injuries plagued his career. Some of it was because he was overplayed; some of it was because as a young player he probably pushed himself to play through the pain barrier too often; and some of it was just bad luck or bad tackles – I remember one from some Man Utd lad whose name I can’t remember doing real damage to what was then his ‘good’ ankle.

His style of play drew players in, and that’s not usual. A lot of really skillful players do that, quick changes of feet at the last minute to skip away and so on, but you need to be robust to thrive when the only way some defenders can stop you is with a reducer. Unfortunately for Jack he didn’t have that other side of it and we never consistently saw the best of him because of that.

However, he retires with great memories of his time at Arsenal, some FA Cup winners medals and some Sp*rs baiting celebrations which landed him in a bit of hot water but I’m sure he never cared one jot about that, and some footballing highlights which stand up to any scrutiny. His display against Barcelona at the Emirates that night which impressed no-less-than Xavi, who said later:

If he had a career that had been injury-free we would already be talking about him as one of the top central midfield players in Europe.

And when you think about the best goals you’ve seen in the modern era, Arsenal or otherwise, the one he scored against Norwich has to be right up there. The good news for Jack and for us is that the association continues, as he’s set to become the new U18s coach – a move he’s been preparing for for some time, starting his coaching badges back in 2016 (I think I remember seeing him do an interview where he said he was doing some of it alongside Mikel Arteta, but I could be misremembering).

Here’s wishing him a happy retirement as a player, and a successful new career as a coach. And what better way to go out today than that goal.

Have a good one folks.

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