Backpage roundup: Wilshere returns to competitive football, Redknapp praises Cazorla, Dragovic on Wenger’s radar and more

Wilshere Plays In Under-21 Game

Jack Wilshere successfully made his return to action by playing more than an hour of football against West Bromwich Albion’s under-21 side on Monday.

The Arsenal starlet’s appearance at the Hawthorns was his first competitive one of the last 14 months and the early impressions are quite positive. He looked confident with his play and almost managed to create a goal for his team with a clever pass.

He did need some attention from the physio at one point in the game but it was just a slight knock and he got back on his feet in no time.

Wilshere was withdrawn from the game in the 62nd minute as per the original plan and the crowd gave him a standing ovation for successfully passing through this test.

 

Wenger Admits Relying On Diaby Is a Gamble

Arsene Wenger has admitted that it is a gamble to rely on injured-again midfielder Abou Diaby in the central midfield, but he believes that Arsenal have the strength and depth in the position to compensate for the Frenchman’s inconsistent fitness record.

After the Gunners lost defensive midfielder Alexandre Song to Barcelona in the summer, it was expected that Wenger would sign a like-for-like replacement to fill the void. However, he decided not to recruit anyone and shocked everyone by putting his faith in Diaby, who had started less than 20 games for Arsenal in the past two seasons.

The 26-year-old’s impressive start to the new season hinted that the Arsenal boss might have done the right thing, but his latest injury (thigh strain) has once again stirred up the debate whether or not he can be relied upon for the entire season.

He is now set to miss the next three weeks of action, and when Wenger was asked to comment on the situation, he said: “Diaby’s injury record is not good. I was concerned about him, of course. It was a gamble but I was calculating as well that Jack Wilshere was coming back.

“Francis Coquelin is here but was sick and Emmanuel Frimpong is back, while Tomas Rosicky is coming back. We have many midfield players. We don’t have many physical players. But Mikel Arteta has shown he can be a great defensive midfield player. We’ll see overall if it was a good or bad decision at the end of the season.”

 

Arteta Wants Improved Defensive Effort

After watching Arsenal’s impressive defensive record get blemished by three goals from set pieces in the last two games, Mikel Arteta has asked his teammates to cut out individual errors from their game and start defending like a team again.

The Arsenal markers first allowed Joleon Lescott to head home the opening goal from a corner in last week’s league game against Manchester City, and then went to sleep twice against Chelsea on Saturday, letting Juan Mata’s free kicks wreak havoc in the penalty box.

While Koscielny was at fault for both of Chelsea’s goals, Arteta believes that the entire team should shoulder the blame for those setbacks.

The Spaniard said: “We have conceded three goals from three set-pieces in the last two games that cost us points and it is not got enough. I don’t think it is something to do with the defence, it is to do with an individual set-up in the game, which is a free-kick or a corner or whatever, and we haven’t defended the ball well enough and we conceded three goals in those two games.”

“You cannot blame one player, you have to clear the lines so quickly and you cannot allow runners like that in the box, and it was the same sort of ball for both goals. It hurts when you lose points at home against teams like that and you feel you haven’t deserved to lose. It is frustrating, but I think it was our own fault because we didn’t defend those set-pieces.”

 

Redknapp: Cazorla Just As Good As Fabregas

Harry Redknapp has said that Arsenal purchase of midfield playmaker Santi Cazorla was the best bit of business conducted in the summer transfer window and believes the Spaniard could go on to become as big a player for the Gunners as his countryman Cesc Fabregas once was.

The former Spurs manager also revealed that he is a long-term admirer of Cazorla’s skills and wanted to bring him to the White Hart Lane but a transfer never materialised.

In his column for The Sun, Redknapp wrote: “Cazorla is a superb footballer and I think Arsenal have got a real diamond. However much they got for Cesc Fabregas, £40 million or whatever it was, they have managed to replace him for less than half the money.

“I am a huge fan of Cesc, but I honestly don’t think there is anything between the two of them. They’re both top Spanish internationals — and Cazorla will be a truly great signing for the Gunners. Probably the best one any side made this summer, in my opinion.”

 

Arsenal Linked With Dragovic Move

Arsenal are purportedly interested in signing FC Basel’s Austrian centre-half Aleksandar Dragovic, according to a report published by talkSPORT.

The 21-year-old defender is regarded as one of the best players in the Swiss Super League and coach Arsene Wenger wants to sign him to bolster his suddenly fragile-looking defence.

However, he will face competition as Dragovic, who is rated at around €7m by Basel, is also a transfer target for La Liga club Valencia.