London: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere can become the complete midfielder after the 20-year-old underlined his return to fitness with the opening goal in his side's 2-0 win over Montpellier on Wednesday. The victory put Arsenal through to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 13th consecutive season.
All eyes have been on the England international since he returned in October after 14 months out with an ankle injury and the sight of him arriving in the penalty area to shoot his side ahead would have gladdened the hearts of all Arsenal fans. It was his first goal for two years and Wenger believes Wilshere is not far from returning to his best form.
"After such a long time off it was great to see him getting stronger and stronger," Wenger told reporters. He had a difficult start to the game but after that he got stronger and stronger. One thing I don't worry too much about is his confidence levels because that's one of his strengths."
While his second-half goal, which Wilshere celebrated by running to the technical area to embrace Arsenal physio Declan Lynch, was a rarity (he only has a handful since making his debut), Wenger says the goals will come naturally.
"I'm not obsessed by his goalscoring record," Wenger said. He defended well tonight and I believe he can be the complete midfielder, not purely an offensive player, so I'm happy with his performance because the goals will come naturally. In the last game against Spurs, after 60 minutes, he lacked a bit of petrol but tonight he didn't drop his level. I think he's not far away from his best, but I must still manage in him in the right way and not overload him with games."
Wilshere's return has coincided with the partnership between new strikers Lukas Podolksi and Olivier Giroud starting to thrive. Asked to fill the void left by Robin van Persie's move to Manchester United, there are signs that the goals are starting to flow. Podolski's sensational volley on Wednesday for Arsenal's second goal was the result of a superb piece of link-up play with Giroud, who Wenger believes is slowly learning his role in the team after a difficult start to life in north London.
"With Giroud you know you get a guy that fights for the team," Wenger said of the man whose goals fired Montpellier to the French league title last season. When he plays as a target man and he uses his link play he is fantastic, he makes good runs, he wins it in the air, he's good with his feet, he can be the complete striker. Of course he felt pressure, who wouldn't? But you can only make your life with your qualities not with the qualities of others and he has different qualities, and he has to use them all."