Jack Wilshere's emergence this season echoes that of a seventeen year old Cesc Fabregas six years ago.
In Belgrade, when Wilshere provided an inventive assist for Arshavin's opening goal, he displayed the kind of vision and awareness that is particularly rare in English footballers. He is already becoming important for Arsenal, but he could be a huge figure for England.
That Champions League moment reminded me of Fabregas's wonderful reverse pass to set up Freddie Ljungberg in that bizarre 5-4 win at White Hart Lane in 2004. It was a moment that made you sit up and take note. Of course, Fabregas has been producing moments like that with increasing consistency in the years since, and has improved in almost every aspect of his game, and that is now the challenge for Wilshere- to show the maturity, the professionalism, and above all, the desire to be great.
That is an area in which many English players have struggled under Arsene Wenger. There was a not dissimilar buzz about David Bentley when he chipped in a lovely goal against Middlesbrough, I think it was, in the FA Cup during the unbeaten season. But it seems that he has lost himself in an unjustified self-love that has fatally stalled his development. He's more interested in hair styles than in becoming a better footballer.
Other players have lost their way in some manner or another. Jermaine Pennant was another wide player and wide boy, who got his head turned by extra-curricular activities. But he never had that much talent anyways. Walcott has his head screwed on, and although I have doubts about his ability, he has shown signs of improvement. The problem being, the next injury is never far away.
The early signs with Wilshere are good though. As mentioned before, he already looks a more seasoned central midfielder than Diaby or Denilson, despite being, at this level, a novice in the position. Since the first day at Liverpool, he's had the look of a lad that wants to learn, wants to improve, wants to earn a place. So the attitude is there. And he is more talented than Bentley, Walcott and Pennant put together.
England must surely, already, hold great hope in his future development. They have long lacked a player in midfield who can control a game. Paul Scholes should have been that man but he was often misused. Steven Gerrard is talked up as being that man but he's nothing of the sort. Wilshere is already showing signs that he could develop into that kind of player.
It is also a great relief for Arsenal that Fabregas's inevitably impending departure will not be the prelude to a mad scrabble for a direct replacement. Even if Aaron Ramsey's horror injury stalls his development, we have Nasri, a semi-rejuvenated Rosicky, and now, we have Wilshere.