Wilshere follows Cesc path
WHEN Jack Wilshere first joined up with the senior England squad for the friendly against Hungary last month there were a few players who were struck by his confidence.
He did not behave like an 18-year-old who was just glad to be there; he looked like an 18-year-old who thought this was exactly where he belonged.
It's a sign of the times that there is a greater certainty that Wilshere will be an England regular one day than a regular in Arsenal's first team, although the smart money says that he will do both.
There has been a buzz about the boy from Hertfordshire since he was only 14, so much so that his gradual emergence into the Gunners side this season at such a young age has not seemed like a surprise.
Like Joe Cole, Wilshere is an English boy of whom great things have been expected from a young age.
Today at Sunderland, with the furore over Arsene Wenger's claims that Arsenal are victimised by less talented teams, the pressure will be on.
These are the kind of games they have lost in the past -- they went down 1-0 at the Stadium of Light last season -- and, if they do, it will take the wind out of a great start to the season.
Wilshere is not guaranteed a start but he is entitled to one having played a key role in the 6-0 win over Braga on Wednesday night.
After that game he talked about the benefits of playing alongside Cesc Fabregas, the player whom he is evidently being groomed to succeed when, barring a miracle for Arsenal, Fabregas goes back to his former club Barcelona one day.
Wilshere is not the type to come over wide-eyed when it comes to famous footballers but he was fulsome in his praise of Fabregas.
"For me, in the position he plays, he is the best player in the world," he said of the Arsenal captain. "That shows with all the interest from the clubs who want him and people talking about him. That is what I want to be like -- he is the perfect player to learn from.
"The way he makes space, it is easy to find him, the way he helps you through the game. He is always talking to you -- he is a good leader as well as a good player.
"I think he looks at the fact we both started young in the first team as well and sees he did the same as me. Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps, to be as good as him would be nice.
"Playing alongside him is an experience that a player of 33 may not have had in his whole career. So at 18 it is a bonus, and to play with people like Cesc and Alex (Song) makes it easy for you."
Wilshere became Arsenal's youngest league debutant when he lined out against Blackburn Rovers in September 2008, aged 16 and 256 days, only 79 days older than when Fabregas played his first game for the club in 2003 (in the League Cup).
An English equivalent of Fabregas would be pretty much the ideal gift for the England manager. Fabio Capello dropped Wilshere from his second squad this season for the two recent Euro 2012 qualifiers but it would be feasible for Wilshere to be a fixture in the team in two years' time.
Owen Coyle, currently one of Wenger's chief antagonists, took Wilshere on loan at Bolton Wanderers last season where he played 14 games. It would be an easy assumption to make that Wilshere struggled outside the rarefied atmosphere of Arsenal but he did well.
"I think I had to go out on loan last year because there are world-class players at Arsenal and I had to get some games," Wilshere said. "I came back more experienced and stronger and if you play regularly it obviously makes it easier for you."
Wilshere was arrested last month in relation to an alleged assault in full view of two newspapers' CCTV cameras, thus ensuring maximum coverage.
As mistakes go, the fact he has not been charged suggests it was not a big one but it will be interesting to see, having had this lesson, whether it is his last or the first of many.
Confidence is no bad thing in a young player and to be fair to him, he did say that he had to "pinch" himself when he sat in a Wembley dressing-room with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.
It has been noted in the football fraternity that he has changed agent already, a tendency that has not always been synonymous with stability in players.
These are early days yet for young Wilshere and Fabregas has told him that he must be patient.
That sounds like good advice for Wilshere. (© Independent News Service)
Sunderland v Arsenal,
Live, ESPN, 5.30