Wilshere: We need character in Spain
Jack Wilshere insists Arsenal can dump favourites Barcelona out of the UEFA Champions League when they travel to Spain in three weeks time. Wilshere was among the Gunners' star performers in last night's 2-1 round of 16 first leg victory over the Spanish champions at Emirates Stadium.
The 19-year-old's impressive display came just a week after winning plaudits for a fine full England debut. Victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the second leg on March 8 would continue a stellar period and Wilshere scents revenge following last season's quarter-final exit.
"Now we've got something to hold on to in the tie. Last year against Barcelona we finished 2-2 at home," he said. "This year it's 2-1 and we have a chance. If we got a goal over there, we will see what happens. We have to go to the Nou Camp and show our character."
Barcelona were magnificent at times during the first half and should have entered the interval with more that a solitary David Villa strike. But the tide turned as the favourites faded, enabling Arsenal to stage a thrilling fightback with goals by Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.
Barcelona took all their household names to north London with Messi, Villa, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez on display, only to be undone by Arsenal's perseverance. "I watched Spain in the World Cup and they were the best team there, so I knew a bit about them before the game," said Wilshere. "But once you get into the game, you get used to them.
"There was a spell in the first half where for about 20 minutes we didn't touch the ball. But we knew they were going to do that. We just had to keep our shape and in the second half, we knew we could hit them on the counter-attack. We had to go up a level in the second half and we passed it around better. We had to carry on playing the Arsenal way."
Villa remains convinced Barcelona are the better team. "We played a good game and created a lot of chances," said the Spain striker. But we were up against a great team in Arsenal who caught us on two counter attacks and hurt us. We were the better team, but there's still 90 minutes to go and we can save ourselves in that time."