By John Cross
Jack Wilshere is desperate for Arsenal to win ALL six of their remaining games – and stop Manchester United winning the title at the Emirates.
Wilshere’s incredible target would guarantee them a top four finish but it would also help them avoid the nightmare prospect of having to give former Gunners captain Robin van Persie a guard of honour on April 28.
Arsenal are on a hot streak which has lifted them to third and they entertain in-form Everton on Tuesday night in a major showdown in the battle for Champions League places.
England midfielder Wilshere firmly believes Arsenal can overcome Everton, win all their remaining games – and also stop United’s painful march towards the title.
Wilshere said: “We’ve got Everton now, which is big, a really important one, and if we win then we’re in a good position. But even then we’re definitely not over the line – we’ve got some tough games coming up.
“Fulham away [on Saturday] will be tough, and then we’ve got Manchester United [on April 28] – we obviously don’t want them winning the league at Emirates, so we’ll be up for that.
“But I think we can get maximum points from our six games – we beat United here the season before last, so we know we’re capable of it.
“If we drop points, we drop points – we’ll just have to bounce back and go game by game.
“It’s great (to be third), especially considering the position we were in before. We’ve shown a lot of character. But while it’s good to look at now, we want to be better than that – we don’t want to be happy with third in the league.
“We’ve got great players, and want to be challenging for first and second.
“We’re happy with third, when you look at this season, but really we want to be higher.”
The very fact that Wilshere wants to delay United’s inevitable march to the title shows how much he wants to be winning trophies himself and how it hurts to have gone another season without silverware with the Gunners.
But this season has also been a roller-coaster ride for Wilshere.
He made his return in late October after 17 months out through injury with a career-threatening ankle problem, then suffered a major setback last month.
Wilshere was given an extended break after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger expressed fears that overplaying him could leave his other foot vulnerable to a similar stress-related injury following the discovery of bruising on his heel.
Wenger has revealed the club perform regular scans on Wilshere to assess his condition, and the Arsenal midfielder admits that this season has been full of frustration.
He even confessed he was well below his best when he returned against Norwich on Saturday.
“It was frustrating, because I was flying just before I got injured in March,” said Wilshere. “I felt good, confident, and then picked up another injury.
“Things then drag a little and you lose your sharpness. But this time it wasn’t anything like as long as the one before, so hopefully this time I can get it back more quickly.
“I needed that game on Saturday – you always need your first one out of the way.
“I wasn’t great, I know it myself. I’m better than that, but you just need to get that first game in, so that your sharpness and understanding come back.
“Obviously, it’s good to be back, but it’s going to take time to get back to where I was. I know it was only six weeks but you still lose your match sharpness and it takes a few games to come. But it’s always nice to come back to a home game.
“I’m feeling fine. As I said, I needed the game on Saturday and am happy the boss gave it to me. The plan was always that I’d play an hour [Theo Walcott replaced Wilshere of the final 30 minutes].
“I don’t know what the boss will do [against Everton] – if he plays me then I’m fit and ready; otherwise, I’ll be ready to contribute from the bench if needed.”
The battle to finish in the top four with the two Manchester clubs has been painted as a three-way, all-London scrap between Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.
But Wilshere was quick to point out that Everton are on a great run (the Toffees top the Premier League form table for the last five games) and also spelled out his admiration for his England team-mates Leighton Baines and Leon Osman – even comparing the latter to Barcelona and Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta.
Wilshere added: “Everton are a very good team. It’s an especially hard game when you go to Goodison, but even when they come here you know what you’re in for.
“They’ve got good players, can hit you on the counter-attack, have a strong midfield and are hard to break down. And they are four points behind us.
“It’s massive that we come into it after winning on Saturday – when we were 1-0 down you were thinking, ‘We’ll take a point here, just get something out of it’, so to get three points was huge.
“It put us up to third and kept us clear of Everton, who won as well and are on a good run. We need to win, we know that, and we’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.“
I’ve liked Leon Osman for years, I think he’s a great player. He’s in the mould of Iniesta in that he can drift past players, has a great touch and is very under-rated.
“For me, he’s a top class player and they’ll be dangerous in there, especially with Marouane Fellaini as well and Darron Gibson, who’s got a great strike on him.
“The midfield battle is going to be key, and if we can come out of that on top then we feel we can win the game.
“Leighton Baines is a great footballer, a natural. He’s not the quickest but, again, he drifts past players and links up well with Steven Pienaar down that wing.
“It’s something we have to be wary of, but we’ve watched them before and just have to stop them doing what they’re good at.
“But look, we’re at home and have to take the game to them. If we play our game – pass and move – we know we can beat anyone.”