Jack Wilshere's Season Starts Saturday Against Norwich
This is a pivotal season in the career of Jack Wilshere. After a turbulent few months, Saturday's clash with Norwich should be considered as the beginning of the season for the midfielder.
Once heralded as Arsenal's shining ray of hope in the quest for trophies, the 21-year-old now faces a battle for his first-team place every week, something that seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the season.
With the upturn in form from Aaron Ramsey, the emergence of Serge Gnabry and the signings of Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil, Wilshere's starting place is no longer a guarantee.
Things haven't been made any easier with a couple of high-profile off-field incidents, too. After being pictured smoking outside a London nightclub following the 2-0 victory over Napoli, he was heavily criticized in the press by Arsene Wenger.
That incident was then put behind him as Wilshere scored the equalizing goal in the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. He headed off to England duty in high spirits.
But then came the well-documented claim that Adnan Januzaj should not play for England and a prominent Twitter spat with Kevin Pietersen.
As well as that, Wilshere barely got a look in for England during their two internationals during the domestic break. Eighteen minutes spread across two substitute appearances does not represent progress for Wilshere, who is now facing a battle to be a key member of England's World Cup squad.
There is no doubting Wilshere has the talent to do exactly that and become a fulcrum of the England side for years to come. If he can produce performances like the one he did against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, then it is a certainty this will happen.
However, he needs to hold down a regular place in an exciting Arsenal side first.
To do that, things will have to improve on the field. According to Squawka's performance score rating, Wilshere is way down on his other midfield partners this season. Ramsey leads the way with a thumping 318 points, and even the likes of Tomas Rosicky are performing better than Wilshere.
One goal and no assists do not exactly replicate attacking midfield form, too. The biggest indicator of his performances lies in the fact that of Arsenal's seven games this season in the EPL, Wilshere has played 90 minutes in just three.
After overcoming such a serious injury early in his career, Wilshere still has all the potential to become one of Arsenal's finest players. 2013/14 represents a key season in his career, though.
The battle to play in Arsenal's midfield has never been so fierce in the career of Wilshere. If he makes the cut on Saturday, a strong performance ahead of a key month for the Gunners could set Wilshere up nicely. There have been glimpses of his brilliance so far, but more consistency will be needed with so many players close to returning. Wenger will have no qualms about benching Wilshere.
If he can force his way into an England midfield that has been crowded even more with the emergence of Andros Townsend, then he will be well on the way to doing that.
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