Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini Claims Jack Wilshere Is Targeted by Midfield Kickers
Mathieu Flamini insists Jack Wilshere is constantly hounded by opponents, who persistently try to provoke a reaction from the 21-year-old.
David Instone covers a lengthy interview with the French international for ESPN, who talks in detail about his club colleague and some of the unwanted attention he's recently received:
It is not that easy. He plays that kind of game. He is a technical player, so every time, he has one or two players against him. He gets kicked from behind or they try and jump on him.
It is not that easy when you are talented and trying to make the difference. So it is sometimes difficult to keep calm but I think he did it well in this game.
Wilshere is often seen to be antagonised by opponents and is regularly involved in skirmishes and scuffles with opposing players.
The 21-year-old has been continually sent to the turf this season—already fouled 17 times according to WhoScored—and was booked for a reckless lunge against West Brom, borne out of his own frustration.
While Wilshere was officially fouled only once against West Brom and was actually responsible for three mistimed challenges himself, manager Arsene Wenger approached the touchline on multiple occasions believing his man to have been wronged.
According to WhoScored, only five players have been fouled more than the Arsenal man in the Premier League so far. Last season he was fouled 52 times in just 20 starts, one of the highest ratios of fouls-per-game in England's top flight.
Clearly there's some substance in Flamini's words. Most of the other frequently fouled players, such as Eden Hazard, Sone Aluko and Robert Snodgrass, are generally found on the flanks—where they are expected to lure challenges from defenders.
With Aaron Ramsey in such dazzling form, Wilshere has recently been shuffled over to an unfamiliar left-sided berth, which has left the England international struggling to make as much of an impact.
Despite a long overdue goal against West Brom, he was especially ineffective in the first half, losing a remarkable 11 duels—as Sky Sports' Adam Bate highlights—with no other player losing more than three.
Having been so regularly troubled by injury and so often the target of particularly feisty challenges, it's possible that a combination of this has reduced his production in and around the tackle area.
Arsene Wenger has regularly demanded more protection for his players and specifically Wilshere—something which, as yet, hasn't been especially adhered to by referees.
Even at international level the young midfielder has found himself the subject of unwanted attention, with Ukraine recently taking a physical approach that unsettled the Arsenal man.
Should Wilshere receive more protection from referees?
The fact Wilshere is so often the target of extra attention must be recognised. At this rate he'll do well to remain fit and steer clear of injury ahead of the 2014 World Cup, for which he is vital to England's hopes.
With his first goal in three years helping him progress past some of the more negative, recent headlines, Wilshere will be desperate to stay fit and create some positive, performance-related stories.
However, by highlighting the issue, Flamini runs the risk of inviting more unsavoury treatment the way of his teammate in forthcoming matches.
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