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Arsene Wenger has hit back at Roy Keane, saying he should understand Jack Wilshere’s struggles against Ostersunds after labelling the Arsenal midfielder as ‘the most overrated player on the planet’.
Former Manchester United captain Keane ripped into at Wilshere’s role as skipper of a team that showed ‘no energy and no desire’ on Thursday night.
But Wenger has stepped in to defend his prized midfield asset from Keane’s barbs — although admitted he was far from his best in the Europa League second leg.
Wilshere struggled in midfield against the Swedish minnows — Wenger, though, suggested Keane had suffered from similarly poor performances in his career as a player.
‘It’s very difficult,’ Wenger said, responding to the ITV pundit’s comments. ‘I personally rate Jack very highly and after that you can have opinions.
‘Jack was in a team last night that didn’t perform well… Was it one of his best performances? Certainly not. Roy Keane knows that can happen to everybody.’
Keane had weighed in on Arsenal’s drab display in their defeat, picking out Wilshere as the starting point for their troubles.
‘I think Arsenal are a great example on how not to start a game of football,’ Keane said on ITV’s Europa League highlights show. ‘We can talk about being a shambles but they’re so slow out of the blocks – poor attitude.
The manager summed it up. No energy, no desire, you’re looking for your senior players to lead by example.
‘I always think, when Wilshere’s your captain, to me, he’s probably the most overrated player on the planet…
‘And they got lucky with the result at the end of it. But if you start a game slowly, no matter how good you are, it’s hard to get going. You can’t just switch it on and off.’
Wilshere is set to start in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley and Mesut Ozil has been declared ready to play. Aaron Ramsey faces a late fitness test.
Wenger has a selection dilemma with January signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan cup-tied having already appeared in this competition with Manchester United.