The night Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere ‘dominated Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets’ as offer is revealed

It's the 11-year anniversary of Arsenal's 2-1 win over Barcelona in a Champions League last-16 first-leg meeting at the Emirates Stadium where Jack Wilshere impressed

February 16, 2011 – a date that will live long in the memory of Arsenal fans.

On a memorable night for the Gunners 11 years ago, they came from behind to Champions League favourites Barcelona thanks to two goals in five minutes from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.

Arsenal wouldn’t capitalise on this last-16 first-leg advantage, losing 4-3 on aggregate following a somewhat controversial return meeting at the Camp Nou a few weeks later where van Persie was harshly sent-off at a time when the visitors were on course to reach the quarter-final.

But it was on that night 11 years ago where Jack Wilshere announced himself to the world.

In a game that featured the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and van Persie, it was a then 19-year-old central midfielder whom the world was talking about afterwards.

Some comments were more backhanded than others as despite praising Wilshere, then Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola said his side had many players like him in the reserve setup.

“[But] he is lucky because we have many players in the second team like him but he plays because there is no pressure at his club to win titles.”

Regardless of what Guardiola said, nothing can take away from the fact that Wilshere produced an outstanding Man of the Match display that night and didn’t look out of place up against a dream trio of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta.

He broke play up, regularly drove with the ball, often made the right choice when in possession and it was his first-time pass under pressure into Fabregas that started the move which resulted in Arshavin’s winner.

Often when the anniversary of this game rolls around, there’s a special mention of Wilshere’s performance from several media outlets.

For example, just last year @101greatgoals tweeted an image of Wilshere in possession with three players surrounding him and the caption read: ’10 years ago today, 19-year-old Jack Wilshere dominated Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets as Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League.’

Interestingly, Wilshere thought the opposite was happening to him as it took until after the game and speaking with Nasri for him to realise just how special a performance he had produced.

“To be honest, I didn’t even think I was [playing that well],” Wilshere told Arsenal’s ‘In Lockdown’ podcast in May 2020. “I thought I was doing all right. When we got to half-time, I had done a few good things in the first half but I felt like they had dominated.

“They had a way of making you feel like you were running around in circles for no reason. They used to make these little passes in midfield and you didn’t know whether to press or to hold back and wait for them.

“It wasn’t until after the game actually [that I realised how well I’d played]. It was Paul Akers, the kit man, who was like, ‘You just had Xavi and Iniesta in your pocket’. I said, ‘no chance’ and he was like, ‘I’m telling you’. Then I got man of the match.

“It’s difficult when you’re in a game to know how well you played and what people are thinking of games.

“It wasn’t until a couple of times in the game where I had beaten a midfielder where I thought, ‘Okay, right, if I can beat that first man you get a little bit of time to get your head up and make a forward pass’. I remember thinking, ‘Right, just beat the first press and you’ll be alright’.

“Over the next few days I remember Nasri saying to me after the game, ‘You need to stay at this level now, you’ve just gone up a couple of levels, this needs to be your level, week in, week out’.

“It’s alright everyone else saying it, but when it comes from your teammates, the people who see you every day, it meant more.”

Unfortunately for Wilshere, he wasn’t able to maintain that level.

In fact, on the 11th anniversary of Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona, the 30-year-old finds himself without a club after his release from Bournemouth last summer.

He suffered two injury-hit seasons at West Ham United after leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2018 and returned to the Vitality Stadium last January on a short-term deal after his contract with the Hammers had been mutually terminated three months prior.

Still keen to continue his football career before potentially moving into coaching, Wilshere has been training with Mikel Arteta’s side since the autumn in the hope of finding a new club.

Although, his next move will be a million miles away from the elite level of the Champions League.

The good news is that football.london understands Wilshere could be closing in on a move to Serie B side Como following an update from Councillor of Sports Paolo Annoni after a meeting with the club’s General Manager Carlalberto Ludi.

“He [Ludi] revealed some interesting news,” Annoni said. “Including a new signing who is more than just a target: Jack Wilshere, a former Arsenal player.”

11 years ago after ‘dominating Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets’ not many would have predicted this career trajectory for Wilshere and when reflecting on the Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona anniversary, it’s hard not to bring up the ‘what if’ scenario for both parties.

Wilshere was tipped to become an Arsenal captain and a regular for England at the time, but there are doubts as to if he can even perform at the highest level again.

Meanwhile, the Gunners haven’t yet topped the heights that special European night promised and are a long way off from going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite.

11 years ago after ‘dominating Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets’ not many would have predicted this career trajectory for Wilshere and when reflecting on the Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona anniversary, it’s hard not to bring up the ‘what if’ scenario for both parties.

Wilshere was tipped to become an Arsenal captain and a regular for England at the time, but there are doubts as to if he can even perform at the highest level again.

Meanwhile, the Gunners haven’t yet topped the heights that special European night promised and are a long way off from going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite.

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