Saturday’s 4-3 win at home to Norwich City in the Under-18 Premier League South reminded Jack Wilshere of his playing days.
Will Sweet gave us an early lead but Errol Mundle-Smith turned the game on its head for the Canaries, before we came from 2-1 down to lead 4-2 thanks to goals from Harrison Dudziak, Michal Rosiak and Kamarni Ryan. La’Sean Sealey scored a consolation for Norwich late on.
“Interesting game,” Jack said after the match. “We had a lot of the ball. It was a bit of a throwback to a few years ago when I used to play and team used to come to Arsenal and sit off us. It’s a sign of respect, I think the lads have earned that over the last few months with the football they’ve played, but I think we found it a little bit difficult today.
“It’s something we haven’t really faced and we had to find different ways of breaking them down, moving it one and two-touch. I thought in the first half we took too long on the ball and didn’t try to attack in forward spaces and ended up going side to side.
“We got caught two times on transition, which we spoke about before the game. We have to be better at that. You see our first team, how good they are at doing that, at sustaining attacks and being aggressive in the last line, we weren’t that today and we knew before the game that’s how they were going to score and they did, so we have to look at that, but some really nice things in possession but we have to be more streetwise out of possession.”
Two of our goals came from set-pieces - Sweet’s header from Rosiak’s corner and Rosiak’s goal from a free-kick.
“It’s nice,” Jack said. “Set-pieces, and we speak about this a lot with the way that the modern game is and how important they’re becoming, we have to recognise that number one and really commit to that, which I think we’re getting better at.
“Will scored from one a couple of weeks ago. Last season, with set-pieces we struggled a lot, but it’s a bonus. We want our playing style to win games, but if you’ve got someone like Rosiak who gets the delivery in that he gets in, then you have to use that as a weapon and we’re starting to do that.
“I spoke to Michal before the game. We had a bit of banter about if he was going to score and, again, for him individually, if he can really master that, which he seems to be doing, that’s a weapon for him in his career.
“If the manager is going to pick a player who is at a similar level, if you’ve got someone who can score from free-kicks and set up from corners and deep free-kicks, he’s going to have a chance of playing, so he needs to keep getting better at that, keep influencing the game as well in possession. I thought he was good today and helped us really build and attack different lines and spaces, but his set-pieces are very good.”
We had more control of the game in the second half, limiting Norwich to very few chances, and Jack explained the tactical tweak that made that happen.
“There were a few tactical changes to try and provoke someone out of Norwich’s stubborn block and then try and create space that he leaves and attack that,” he said. “I thought the players did that well. I thought we could’ve recognised that in the first half but just went side to side, but fair play to the players for executing the second half plan and we got the reward for that.”
Sometimes the best way to protect a lead is to increase it and, at 3-2 up, two of Jack’s substitutes combined as Omari Benjamin crossed for Kamarni Ryan to get our fourth of the afternoon.
“I always say that before the games, be ready. I don’t like to call them subs or who is on the bench. They’re finishers, because nowadays the way the game is, the physical demands, players get tired so they have to be ready, they have to be vigilant watching the game and seeing the spaces they can attack and I thought they made a real difference.
“It’s an important message that that sends to the group - if you’re not playing, you still have a role to play and make sure that when that time comes you’re ready.”
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