Arsenal Yoof Behaving Badly/Shakhtar Donetsk

I felt considerable relief when the final whistle blew on Saturday against Birmingham City. Three points were VERY important to us after taking only one of the previous nine on offer. The performance wasn’t great. We conceded a soft headed goal from a ball into the box yet again.
None of the fault for that could or should attach to goalie Łukasz Fabiański whose only slightly worrying moment was a clearance kick under pressure. He was forced to make a good save from a misdirected clearing header from Emmanuel Eboué. He also pounced on a loose ball in the box right at the death which could have been very dangerous. This earned him kisses and pats on the noggin from Johan Djourou and Alex Song which he deserved.
I’m pleased that Arsčne Wenger made no bones about Jack Wilshere’s dismissal for a dangerous studs up tackle right at the death. I’m afraid the straight red card was merited. Whether such tackles are malicious with intent to damage or just reckless they amount to same thing and need to be cut out of the game. I think Wilshere’s lunge was in the reckless rather than malicious category but steaming in like that with studs up has to be heavily discouraged.
As the dismissal was for violent conduct he will be suspended for three domestic games, next Sunday’s crucial game at Eastlands against Manchester City, now ahead of us in second place in the League, the visit to St James’ Park to play Toon the Carling Cup and the home game against the ‘Appy ‘Ammers at the Grove. Ouch. We have to hope that Cesc Fàbregas is fit for selection next Sunday.
One of those who might be promoted up the batting order in Wilshere’s absence, Craig Eastmond, has got himself into hot water with the Babylon. It’s alleged he’s been showing off his old chap in public. Following on from Wilshere’s arrest for alleged involvement in an assault case and Jay Emmanuel Thomas being captured back in February allegedly driving whilst unaccompanied on a provisional licence and failing to stop, this is forming a bit of a worrying pattern. The boss needs to sit all the young players down and have a severe word in their shell-likes.
I’m not too holier than though about this. I was soppy as a box of toys at their age (some will tell you I still am, a charge not completely lacking in evidence to support it I’m afraid). I didn’t have the temptations implicit in having more money that Croesus at their age either (neither do I now, as my bank manager is pleased to remind me with depressing regularity).  I’m generally for everybody taking responsibility for themselves, but I do think there is a place for some enlightened paternalism with young footballers earning huge sums so early in their careers.
Despite playing a couple of uncharacteristically misdirected passes on Saturday, which I attribute to lapses of concentration rather than lack of technique, Wilshere frequently illuminated the game, playing a crucial role in Marouane Chamakh’s winner. We’ll miss him in the next three domestic games. I’m hoping that the silver lining will be the return of Cesc and a chance for Wilshere to have a short break from the intensity of top class matches. It’s important to nurture and protect such a prodigious talent at his age. I firmly believe he is the most gifted player to emerge from our youth ranks since my Arsenal King of Kings Liam Brady four decades ago in 1973. Let’s not forget that the lad doesn’t turn nineteen until next January.
At the moment he faces the crushing weight of all our expectations. If we handle his development correctly we could have an all-time Arsenal great on our hands. Unlike in Brady’s time we are in a far better place financially to keep him at the club for his entire career. The important word though is “could”. So much can go wrong with a player at his age. If he fails to fulfil his potential it won’t be for lack of talent though. The lad oozes class on the park.
Tomorrow night we face Shakhtar Donetsk at home in the Champions League. The Ukrainian champions are by some distance the strongest of our group opponents. A win and a draw against them will see us through into the round of sixteen once again I believe. However, as I always say, one game at a time. A win tomorrow night would place us in strong position in the group, but we’ll have to go out and earn it.
Keep the faith!

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