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Wenger marvels at midfield partnership
Published : 20 Oct 2010 07:18:00
Arsene Wenger believes Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere can forge a formidable partnership at the heart of Arsenal's midfield. The pair combined superbly to demolish Group H rivals Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 and all but secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday night. The Ukrainians had brought an impressive record to Emirates Stadium and also had taken maximum points from their first two European ties. However, Arsenal made them look ordinary, barely getting out of second gear as Alex Song was gifted an early goal following a terrible fumble by Shakhtar goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov - and Arsene Wenger's men never looked back. In-form winger Samir Nasri smashed home his second goal in three days to make it 2-0 before the break, with Fabregas' spot-kick ending the game as a contest on the hour. Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh completed the rout. Croatia striker Eduardo, sold by Arsenal during the summer, netted a fine consolation goal on the return to his former club with seven minutes left, which brought a round of applause from the home fans. Fabregas had been out since mid-September with a hamstring problem, while Wilshere had a point to prove following his headline-grabbing red card against Birmingham on Saturday. "I am convinced it works well together," said Wenger. "Cesc just came back tonight, but Jack has a good maturity level. You never think he is 18 when plays and overall they combined very well." Wilshere could be set for another England call-up against France in next month's friendly at Wembley. On the possibility of the 18-year-old being handed a first start, Wenger said: "Without wanting to make headlines, it's difficult to say. "If you ask me the reverse question, do you think he is not ready to play for England? It's hard to say no." The Gunners boss, though, warned against over-expectation. "Jack is a box-to-box player, but can play in any position across the midfield and also behind the striker because he can penetrate. "We have to give him time and let him play - I know that's not easy for you and not your [media's] greatest strength." There was a flashpoint involving Wilshere during the first half when a late challenge left Shakhtar midfielder Tomas Hubschman in a heap, but which only received a stern warning from Norwegian referee Svein Oddvar Moen. "You want the player to go for the ball. So long as he goes for the ball with intention," Wenger said. "He's a bit late, that can happen." The Arsenal manager added: "Sometimes when you get such a storm you want to go the other way, but what was important tonight was that he just played football and just went for the game like a real player. "Jack is a player with a good technical level, but as well is a player who doesn't hide from challenges, and that is a tremendous strength which you do not want to lose." The Gunners had already chalked up some nine goals in the Champions League, hitting new boys Braga for six in their opening match and are set to qualify for the knockout stage. Wenger said: "When you win 1-0 people think it's too difficult, when you win 5-1 people think it's too easy. "We had a good team attitude and we had a very good technical level." Next up for Arsenal is a trip to Barclays Premier League rivals Manchester City on Sunday. Wenger said: "We have won our last two games now and it that is important because we go into the Manchester City game with a good level of confidence and with some certainties in the way we want to behave." Eduardo - who had battled back from an horrific broken leg and dislocated ankle at Birmingham in February 2008 - received applause from the home support after he volleyed home a well-taken effort in the closing stages, which he did not celebrate. "If you wanted a Shakhtar Donetsk player to score a goal then it was Eduardo," said Wenger. "Everyone has good feelings for him because everyone knows the sort of player he was when he arrived and what he went through." Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu admitted his team's gameplan went out the window with some sloppy defending. "We could not play the offensive game, but we organised very well," he said. "However, we gave them mistakes to make it 2-0."