By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger took plenty of positives from the win over West Bromwich Albion but one post-match observation stood out: Jack is back.
Jack Wilshere has been back for some time, of course - Saturday was his eighth appearance since his 17-month lay-off with ankle and knee injuries - but according to Wenger the England international is now approaching the peak of his powers.
Wilshere was central to Arsenal's 2-0 victory over the Baggies, passing intelligently and accurately, closing down quickly, beating his man and, as Wenger noted, finding his "burst" again. The midweek rest obviously did Wilshere good.
"I have still to be cautious," said Wenger, "but Saturday was the first time I have seen him very, very close to the player he is. Yes [we've got] our young old Jack back.
"We have to see if he has no reaction but it was good to leave him at home in midweek [for the Olympiakos game]. To give him a breather from time to time, maybe two, three games and then one breather maybe.
"But when he plays at that level, and you are under the pressure we are under to win the games, it is difficult to leave him out.
Wenger elaborated. "He won balls when he closes down and he made a difference running with the ball,” he said. “It is important in the middle of the park to be capable of passing people to create openings. He can do that.
"No [he is not at his maximum yet] but he is not far away on what he has done on Saturday."
Wilshere's enthusiasm for his football was obvious even before he was starved of first-team action for so long. Wenger believes the 20-year-old’s approach to training has helped him find his form quicker than expected.
"He analyses well his game and is very demanding with himself," said the manager. "He works hard in training, he is a worker.
"He’s an enthusiastic player - he goes for the challenges the day before a game. I don't hold him back because I think it is good to have that attitude. When the best players have that attitude, you have always a chance.
"I believe the surprising thing for me is that he is in advance [of his scheduled recovery]. I expected him to be back next year in February, at his best. He looks to be there much earlier than I expected him to be."Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 9 Dec 2012