Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will watch his team take on Jack Wilshere and co tonight, not for the first time.
Wilshere is currently on loan at Bournemouth, who host City in the modest surrounding of the 11,464-capacity Dean Court tonight, but this battle has been played out on the biggest stage of all in the past.
Speaking to The Telegraph ahead of Monday Night Football, Guardiola reminisced about watching Wilshere for Arsenal against his former side Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
“I remember in Barcelona and that year we played Arsenal,” Pep began. “He left a massive impression when he came. A high, high level. I know the problem with Jack Wilshere was just the injuries.
“He’s lucky to play regularly for one season and he is going to be back to being one of the best midfield players in England by far. He’s quality, he’s smart and has the quality on the ball.
“He has a special quality with the ball, dribbling as a holding midfielder to attack central defenders – it’s not easy to do that.
“He’s a little bit like Dembele at Tottenham. They have quality to pass, pass, pass and then immediately destroy the defensive structures. I’m so happy he’s back and he’s playing regularly. Hopefully on Monday he can play.”
Although Pep did not directly declare his interest in Wilshere, The Telegraph’s Luke Edwards suggests that Guardiola’s specific praise, lauding the 25-year-old for being capable of doing what City’s current holding midfielders cannot (dribble and quickly transition from defence to attack), was very deliberate.
The Telegraph remind us that City have been linked with Wilshere before. Back then, a move seemed very unlikely, with Arsene Wenger unwilling to allow one of his best boys join one of Arsenal’s biggest rivals.
But Wilshere’s stock at Arsenal has clearly fallen, hence the loan move to Bournemouth.
Wenger may have lost faith, but Wilshere still has a fan in Guardiola…