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Jack Wilshere: The new Paul Scholes?

Arsenal fans and a delighted manager Arsene Wenger got a look at the future of the club and the English national side last night – Jack Wilshere.

The young midfielder, sent off at the weekend and arrested recently after a nightclub fracas (during which he is believed to have acted as a peacemaker and was not charged with an offence), is raw and prone to controversy already, but if Arsene Wenger can keep him focused on football and becoming a proper professional, the 18-year-old has all the attributes to become what the England team has missed so dearly since he retired at the age of just 28 from the national side, the new Paul Scholes.

Wilshere is believed to be teetotal, meaning that alcohol will hopefully not set him on a road towards a miserable Paul Gascoigne ending and instead could lead to the evergreen Paul Scholes, still dictating games at 36 and with his club struggling to replace him after 18 years at the top.

Last night Arsenal paired Wilshere with their captain, talisman and one of the top midfielders in the world Cesc Fabregas against Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk. While the Spaniard is unlikely to be at Arsenal next year due to Barcelona coveting him openly and persistently, Wilshere has all the attributes to ensure Gunners fans have a ready-made replacement.

The English man, who made his international debut against Hungary in August, would do well to look at Fabregas as a role model. The Spaniard’s commitment to the club on the pitch since his dream Barcelona move fell through has been admirable. You only need to look at similar situations involving Javier Mascherano at Liverpool and now Wayne Rooney at Manchester United to appreciate the level of professionalism of the club captain.

But Wilshere has certainly learned from Fabregas in a footballing sense. Not only is he prone to the occasional dodgy tackle (witnessed again last night for a challenge which somehow failed to earn him a card) as shown with his late red card against Birmingham on Saturday, but he has an amazing ability to languidly stroke a ball through a opposition defence as though he were attempting it in the park with his friends on a Saturday lunchtime.

Last night’s performance showed every facet of Wilshere that needs to be encouraged and changed at the same time. With Arsenal leading 5-0, Wilshere was often their furthest forward player having started a move before looking to add to his solitary goal. This showed a slight immaturity, in that he lost his position leaving Shakhtar open to attack Arsenal and eventually capitalise (as they did through former Gunners striker Eduardo).

However his goal was a majestic finish, belying his years, showing all the cool of an experienced striker. What he seems to lack in pace he makes up for in balance and touch. Like Scholes, he is unlikely to dribble round five players before chipping the keeper. But he is certainly capable of using his footballing brain to get into positions in the box where he will inevitably profit from Arsenal’s creativity in midfield.

Like Scholes, who used to regularly ghost into the box unchallenged to score for club and country, Wilshere can spot a move before most of those around him on the pitch. And this is at the age of 18.

Arsene Wenger told reporters after the game that Wilshere was ready to be a regular performer for England already. While the Gunners boss has never been shy in this sense, perhaps causing more harm than good by recommending 17-year-old Theo Walcott to Sven Goran Eriksson in 2006, his words will be met with nods of approval across the country following England’s drab scoreless draw with Montenegro last week.

The only disappointing element of Wilshere’s progress this season after his successful loan spell at Bolton last year was his red card on Saturday. Not only because it was rash and dangerous, but it means he will serve a three-game ban and will see his tackling come under scrutiny from referees when he returns.

The young star needs to learn to avoid tackles similar to the one that saw him dismissed against Birmingham

Paul Scholes is a woeful tackler at the best of times, and one of the most-booked players in Premiership history, but is one of, if not the best English players of the Premiership era. Wilshere has all the elements to become a terrific product of Arsenal’s youth team and to lead the next generation of English players, while entertaining fans at the Emirates each Saturday afternoon.

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