This is, Arsene Wenger declared in the summer, the biggest season of Jack Wilshere’s career. It is now or never.
So much, rightly, was made of the poolside party pictures from Las Vegas days after England’s embarrassing exit from the World Cup. He has also had it in the neck this season, picked out after his failure to take control of Arsenal’s opening three fixtures.
We know there is more, much more, to come from a player who former England captain Steven Gerrard once claimed belonged in the ‘world class’ category.
Last night, momentarily, he sparkled. It was his quick-witted one-two with Mesut Ozil that drew gasps of admiration from the Emirates crowd. The cheers that followed were for Alexis Sanchez after he scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt, but Wilshere engineered this when the ball fell to him on the edge of the area.
There are times, especially when Aaron Ramsey is missing from the team, that the stage is set for Wilshere to dazzle.
He is a crowd favourite, more popular than ever since his response to the question: ‘What do you think of Tottenham?’ on the microphone outside the Emirates after Arsenal’s FA Cup win. Wilshere will never be tamed.
There was an extravagant turn in the second half, spinning off Veli Kavlak and Ramon Motta before driving forward to launch another attack that lifted Arsenal fans.
When they see him play like this, with confidence and swagger, they want more.
God willing, Wilshere will go on to fulfil his potential. No-one doubts he has the touches to be one of the main thrusts in this team when they have the ball.
When they are without it, his game suffers. He will know that he brought down Besiktas winger Ramon Motta inside the area before Arsenal’s opening goal. It should have been a penalty but somehow referee Pedro Proenca ignored the claims.
This wasn’t a vintage Wilshere performance but he needs to grow as the season progresses.
Today, along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers, he will be named in Roy Hodgson’s first England squad since the World Cup for games against Norway and Switzerland.
Chambers, a substitute last night, has earned his place. Oxlade-Chamberlain will need time. Injuries to knee and groin have halted his development.
He started Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Everton and he was raring to go down Arsenal’s right here. They need to get him on the ball.
Oxlade-Chamberlain can bulldoze his way beyond players at the highest level, but he can be one lonely boy when Arsenal can’t locate him.
They will reach out to the rest of Europe when the Champions League draw takes place in Monaco this afternoon.
When the group phase begins, Wilshere will be up against the very best. – Daily Mail