London – Arsenal teenager Jack Wilshere has vowed to add bite to Arsene Wenger’s midfield by emulating Gunners legend Patrick Vieira.
Wilshere has caught the eye with his range of passing since breaking into Wenger’s squad last season, and is regarded as a potential successor to Cesc Fabregas if the Spanish star leaves the Emirates Stadium.
But the 18-year-old, who is likely to start in tomorrow’s Premier League clash against Newcastle, wants to be known for more than just his silky skills and is working on the more destructive side of playing in midfield.
Wilshere had just joined Arsenal during Vieira’s final years at the club and, even though he lacks his stature, he saw enough to know it is vital to reproduce the kind of aggressive displays that became the Frenchman’s trademark in England.
“I was on the books when Patrick was still here and I think the way he tackled and intercepted play is something I would add to my game,” Wilshere said.
“The strongest part of my game at the moment is my passing and my weakest is probably my right foot, but I’m working on that.”
Another of Wilshere’s idols – former Arsenal star Liam Brady – fits more closely with the youngster’s current playing style and Brady worked with the teenager in his role as an Arsenal youth coach.
Wilshere, one of the few Arsenal players to emerge with any credit from the midweek Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk, also takes advice from Fabregas about the midfielder’s art.
“Liam Brady is my role model. He has always been there in my career. He has helped me a lot and people have said I am a similar player to him,” added Wilshere.
“Cesc talks to me and tells me what I need to do. He was 16 when he burst on to the scene so you just need to talk to the senior players like him and they help you through.”
Meanwhile, history is against Newcastle as they go in search of a third consecutive Premier League win for the first time in two and a half years.
They have yet to taste victory at the Emirates Stadium, and have lost their last five games to the Gunners, including last month’s comprehensive 4-0 League Cup exit at the hands of a youthful Arsenal side.
Chris Hughton’s team travel to the capital – where they have won both their previous games so far this season, at Chelsea in the League Cup, and at West Ham in the League – with confidence levels high after their stunning 5-1 demolition of North-East rivals Sunderland.
Victory left the recently promoted St James’ Park club safely embedded in the top half of the table going into this weekend’s round of games.
Cheik Tiote, their Ivory Coast midfielder, is confident Newcastle can end a near five-year wait for a three-point haul against the Gunners.
The 24-year-old said: “It’s important we don’t get too carried away after beating Sunderland, so we’re very focused on this game.
“Of course Arsenal are a good side, but we have a chance of getting a result there because of the way we’re playing.
There’s no reason why not if we put in the same kind of display as we did against Sunderland.”
Hughton is likely to name an unchanged line-up, meaning veteran former Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell, 36, will have to settle for a place on the bench if he overcomes a thigh problem.