Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was finally back in action and on the scoresheet earlier today, starting a behind-closed doors friendly against a Brentford XI at the club's London Colney training ground.
Wilshere was just one of four Arsenal stars stepping up their respective comebacks from long-term injury problems, with club captain Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby all playing at least 45 minutes in a 4-0 win.
Mathieu Flamini also started in a game that will serve as a huge boost to Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who has the overwhelming majority of his squad fit heading towards the business end of the campaign.
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Wilshere's return timely
Wenger will be particularly be pleased with Wilshere's return, in his first match of any kind since suffering serious ankle ligament damage under a challenge from Manchester United defender Paddy McNair back in April.
The England international opened the scoring after seven minutes, reacting quickest after Diaby's deflected drive had been parried with a smart finish from close range. Wilshere turned provider for a youngster hoping to follow in his footsteps soon after, playing a neat one-two with Daniel Crowley before the teenage prodigy fired low to double Arsenal's advantage inside 20 minutes.
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Friendly proves a success
Arsenal started the morning with a plan to give Wilshere, Arteta and Diaby 45 minutes and all three reached that target before being withdrawn at half-time, while Debuchy managed an hour.
Debuchy has been out of action for two months after suffering a second serious injury in his first season at the Emirates, with the French full-back counting himself very unlucky to be badly hurt on both occasions.
The 29-year-old will now be targeting a return to first-team action in April, although given Hector Bellerin's form in his absence that may prove to be a difficult challenge.
Bellerin has surpassed expectations with pacy, energetic displays at right-back in the Arsenal first team since the turn of the year in particular, which means despite a considerable advantage in terms of experience Debuchy has his work cut out to displace the young Spaniard over the next two months.
Bielik features in defence
Other than Flamini featuring there's one other notable inclusion in Arsenal's XI for the important friendly, with Polish teenager Krystian Bielik continuing his development in a match which saw him tried in defence.
Bielik joined Arsenal in January with a reputation as a promising holding midfielder, but Wenger clearly thinks he's got potential as a central defender and tried him there against Brentford with so many experienced players getting valuable minutes in his preferred position.
The 17-year-old played 66 minutes in a run-out that saw Nigerian strike starlet Alex Iwobi round off the scoring with a brace, on an afternoon at London Colney that has to go down as very productive in terms of finally emptying Arsenal's forever full treatment room.
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