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During the dark days as he battled back from a persistent ankle injury, and perhaps also during the swelling of Arsenal’s creative ranks, Jack Wilshere must have dreamed of nights like this, nights when he was the talk of the town.

It was not simply the personal pleasure Wilshere will have derived from his two goals; it was also the acceptance around the Emirates and beyond that the young Englishman is at the heart of Arsenal’s quickening ambition.

His double means Arsenal need only avoid a three-goal defeat in Napoli on Dec 11 to guarantee their presence in the last 16 of the Champions League. In an occasionally profligate performance by Arsenal, Wilshere’s accuracy was particularly welcome.

This was his 25th appearance of the season for club and country. His manager, Arsène Wenger, talks wisely of “managing” Wilshere’s ankle condition, easing him back in, resting him occasionally, ensuring his system is not overloaded.

But Wilshere showed here how important he is. He doubled his goal tally for the season, is finding form at a good time, and is still only 21.

Arsenal are blessed with an array of attacking talent from Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and the returning Theo Walcott to the still-injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Mathieu Flamini’s arrival has halved Wilshere’s chances of playing in deep midfield.

The man with No 10 on his back is also less likely to play in the hole behind Olivier Giroud now that Özil has come. Wilshere started on the right here, roamed, scored twice and reminded everyone of his substance.

Judging by the way he was encouraging his team-mates in the tunnel before they emerged for the second half, Wilshere knows he belongs at this level.

He even gave Wenger an affectionate tap on the back of his quilted jacket when he was replaced to a standing ovation with 15 minutes left.

The headlines and man-of-the-match awards inevitably belonged to Wilshere but others deserve praise. Flamini has brought a steel to the midfield, a willingness to sit and mind the fort while the other central-midfielder, in this case Ramsey, push on. Bacary Sagna did well at right-back, contributing to attacks and breaking up Marseille’s intermittent incursions.

Per Mertesacker repelled Marseille three times in a short period of the first half while Wojciech Szczesny made two saves in the second half from the lively substitute Florian Thauvin.

Such is Arsenal’s defensive resilience that they should survive their trip to Stadio San Paolo. As they have conceded only three times in their five group-stage games, Arsenal and their fans will travel hopefully. It still seems crazy that Arsenal have 12 points but are still not through.

Borussia Dortmund’s 3-1 victory over Napoli has ensured Group F remains a slightly tense affair, a section of pressure and permutations. Arsenal should be equal to the equation, particularly as the Italians’ defence is not the greatest and their attack has lost some of its fabled sharpness.

Arsenal will not be daunted. There is a strong self-belief now. Marseille’s team-sheet, revealing a weakened line-up, simply filled Arsenal with even more confidence, a belief shown so wonderfully by Wilshere after only 30 seconds.

Latecomers were still streaming in, taking up their red seats, catching a glimpse of the splash of blue in the corner where Marseille fans were their usual demonstrative selves and even Arsenal’s quickfire opener did not dampen their spirits.

It began after Flamini, again an important influence, cleared up a Marseille attack. Mertesacker then stroked the ball towards Olivier Giroud, who had dropped into the Arsenal half. The Frenchman laid the ball off first time to Sagna, who released Wilshere down the right.

Lucas Mendes, Marseille’s left-sided centre-half, tried to close him down.

Wilshere shaped to go right, twitching a shoulder, wrong-footing Mendes.

Wilshere cut in and curled the ball left-footed around Nicolas N’Koulou and the keeper Steve Mandanda. Wilshere ran away, sucking his thumb, a salute to his young child, and then punching the corner-flag.

Up in the smartest seats, Thierry Henry smiled his approval. Down in the statistical zone, the number-crunchers timed Wilshere’s goal at 30 seconds, the quickest by an Englishman in the Champions League, comfortably breaking Wayne Rooney’s mark of 1min 05sec against Bayern Munich in 2010.

It was still not Arsenal’s fastest in the Champions League, a club record still held by Gilberto Silva who found the target after 20 seconds against PSV Eindhoven in 2002.

Arsenal could have threatened more club records in the first half. They could have scored four or five. Wilshere, Mesut Özil and Rosicky were interchanging constantly behind Giroud, their movement confusing Marseille. Ramsey soon broke forward, freed by Özil, but shooting wide and then wasted Wilshere’s pass with a shot straight at Mandanda.

Arsenal were dominant yet had to endure some brief pressure. Mertesacker, the captain, led by example, showing the concentration required, taking the ball off Saber Khalifa, then joining Sagna in pressing Andre-Pierre Gignac into losing possession before throwing his long body in the way of a Jeremy Morel shot.

The half could have deteriorated further for Marseille. Ramsey turned N’Koulou just outside the area, was caught by the centre-half, and fell.

The Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, wrongly deemed the offence inside the area and pointed to the spot. Justice did prevail when Özil, taking far too short a run-up, failed to inject enough speed into the ball and Mandanda threw himself right to save. It was a surprisingly lax kick by the German international, who looked suitably angry with himself.

Baup started strengthening his side, sending on Valbuena and Thauvin 10 minutes after the restart but Arsenal calmed any nerves after 65 minutes. Ramsey rolled the ball down the inside-right channel and Özil flicked a terrific pass across to Wilshere, who scored from close range.

The points seemed safe yet Marseille began to threaten.

Thauvin, a player who has interested Wenger, was a particular menace. Only 20, Thauvin is quick and incisive in his running, and lived up to his billing as a huge French prospect. Szczesny saved from Thauvin, the ball bouncing up and dropping goalwards. Monreal was well-positioned to clear off line. Thauvin attacked again, bringing a low save from Szczesny.

And so to Naples for that final Group F permutation. In Wilshere, Szczesny and others, Arsenal have the men to do the maths..

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