Locked and Loaded: Arsenal Midfielder Jack Wilshere, the Face of England’s Next Generation

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Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere (Photo via Getty Images)

Arsenal currently has some of the best young English talent at their disposal, but few have the drive that Jack Wilshere exhibits every time he graces the pitch. Whether for Arsenal or for England, the young Stevenage born star looks destined for greatness.

At the age of only 21, he is already the face of his generation of young midfielders.  He broke into the Arsenal first team for the first time in 2008 while only 16 years of age and has never looked back on his quest to reach the paramount of world class.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere on loan with Bolton Wanderers in 2010 (Photo via Getty Images)

Wilshere’s pure quality was first truly put on display during a loan spell to Bolton Wanderers in the second half of the 2009-10 campaign. His 17 starts with the Trotters showed his vision to be already developed beyond his years as he was a shining star amidst a club that was struggling to find their identity.

Upon his return to Arsenal the following season he proved he was ready for a full time role under manager Arsene Wenger and did not disappoint. He finished the 2010-11 season with two goals and nine assists across all competitions with 49 senior appearances. Despite his young age, Wilshere already began showing leadership capabilities on the pitch through his exemplary play.

However, the following season would prove devastating for the player as he suffered a stress fracture to his ankle that would eventually claim the entire 2011-12 campaign as well as any chance of participation with England at the 2012 UEFA European Championships or the 2012 Summer Olympics hosted in Great Britain.

After suffering over 13 months of frustration without football, Wilshere looks to finally be back to his old self and Arsenal have been enjoying his skill in the center of the park. But, the Gunners are not the only team that is hoping to reap the rewards of the once again healthy 21-year-old.

The England national team will welcome Wilshere’s return with open arms, and manager Roy Hodgson is thrilled to have a player back that he believes is, “crucial,” to his side’s future according to comments in the Mirror:

I’m wary that Jack is 21, although he had a fantastic debut and has missed a year of football.

But while I want to play down the expectations, you can’t deny he’s an exceptional talent when you watch him play for Arsenal.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere battles with Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard (Photo via Getty Images)

Not only did his national team boss show high regard for him, but his captain, talisman and the 2012-13 FA English Footballer of the Year, Steven Gerrard, who is set to be Wilshere’s midfield partner, was full of praise for the young player:

I think he’s got the potential to become one of the best in the world.

I don’t want to add any pressure. That’s unfair. But playing against him recently and in training, he’s a one-off. He’s a lot better than your normal Premier League midfielder. I have a lot of confidence in him.

However, the acknowledgment from the Liverpool legend did not stop there as Gerrard continued to heap praise on the shoulders of his young counterpart:

He’s got a bit of everything, he can tackle, get up and down the pitch, create a goal, score a goal, can pass. He can tick almost every box, and he’s going to get better and better. He’s only 21 and a fantastic talent…

I hope he brings out the best in all of us. He’s a top player and I hope he gives the dressing room a lift. We need competition for places if we’re going to get to Brazil. All over the pitch, there’s good competition for places…

He looks as if he can cope with the pressure. You’ve still got the likes of [Wayne] Rooney, [Frank] Lampard and [Ashley] Cole, other top players in the group, and we’ll share the responsibility out. It’s up to us to put our arms round him and make sure you lot don’t put too much pressure on him.

Jack Wilshere on duty with the England U21 national team (Photo via Getty Images)

The potential that Gerrard and Wilshere could form a partnership that gives the Three Lions that equal amount of steel and work rate that they need to drive the team forward is truly staggering. With the veteran no-nonsense Gerrard alongside the youthful exuberance, yet experienced and moldable talent of Wilshere, it is possible that Roy Hodgson could have figured out the key to England’s future.

It is all in plain view for the eye to see and in many ways Wilshere should remind people of a young Steven Gerrard. When the now 32-year-old broke into the Reds’ first team he was out to prove his worth with the bit between his teeth from the word go. He has not only grown to be the face of Liverpool, but the example of the all-around English footballer.

As Wilshere continues to grow into his career and his skills it is truly he who will come to define his generation of midfielders as Gerrard has defined his. The young Englishman is the future of Arsenal, as well as potentially England, and he is destined to wear the armband for the London club before the end of his career.

England's Steven Gerrard is withdrawn for young Jack Wilshere (Photo via Getty Images)

It would not be a surprise to see him honored with it at a young age in the same way that Gerrard was by Gérard Houllier at the age of only 22. For Wilshere to assume the captaincy from veteran defender Thomas Vermaelan would likewise again share commonality with Gerrard having claimed Liverpool’s from Sami Hyypia.

Over the next year and a half on the road to Brazil, we are likely to witness the passing of the midfield “torch” from the likes of Gerrard and Frank Lampard to the next generation. That generation is most certainly that of Wilshere and potentially Manchester United’s Tom Cleverly who could be the great counter argument of the Arsenal player that Lampard has always proved to be of Gerrard.

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