Quite a game, no? Nick Miller watched Arsenal's thrilling 1-1 draw with Everton and saw two teams who have improved, leaving certain others trailing...
Another rotten day for David Moyes, whose desperation for a win was epitomised by the selection of an unfit Robin van Persie in attack. It's looking pretty worrying indeed...
Without inviting the dreaded claims of lazy journalism (perish the thought), comparisons between Jack WIlshere and Cesc Fabregas are rather easy to draw. In September 2008 it was Wilshere who broke Fabregas' record as Arsenal's youngest ever player, with both midfielders lauded separately as the brightest light in the Gunners' future, forced into centre stage through a club's commitment to youth. Fabregas' saga-ridden departure to Barcelona allowed Wilshere to take on the mantle of 'next big thing'.
It comes as some surprise, therefore, that the two players' formative years have differed so greatly. When Fabregas was five months away from his 22nd birthday (as Wilshere is now) he had made 216 appearances for Arsenal, but Wilshere is yet to reach three figures. More starkly still, at that time the Spaniard had 37 caps for his country, whilst Wilshere has only 412 minutes of experience in an England shirt (and just two competitive matches).
Such statistics do not hint at any detriment in talent, of course, for it is clear that Wilshere's injury problems have been significant enough to severely hamper his development thus far. Rather than criticise, we should be mightily impressed that a player so young has been unable to return from a 17-month layoff from the game when still so young. Such absences could have psychologically damaged the more fragile and the player's response, almost immediately imprinting himself on the team after recovery, demonstrates a maturity and attitude far beyond his years. There is always a danger of absence making the footballing heart grow too fond, but in Wilshere's case a recovery was rightly welcomed with a sense of genuine excitement.
Wilshere's availability is of utmost importance to Arsenal this season, his ever-presence increasing the ceiling on the club's expected achievement, because in his creative midfield role he is unsurpassed at the Emirates. Aaron Ramsey improved last season but does still not have the consistency and dribbling prowess for the task, whilst Tomas Rosicky showed flashed of his pre-injured self, but again falls short of Wilshere's ability.
However, it is the midfielder's influence on the rest of the Arsenal players that is his most recognisable strength. It is no coincidence that during Arsenal's astonishing late season run (no Premier League side gained as many points as them in 2013), Wilshere was the standout performer. There are very few players Premier League players who are able to grab both the game and team-mates together by the scruff of the neck, their performance reflected in that of others. Steven Gerrard does it at Liverpool, and Jack Wilshere is that man at Arsenal. At just 21, that's quite an honour and responsibility.
The midfielder's importance is not lost on his manager. Speaking after his late winner against Swansea in January, Arsene Wenger described Wilshere as the "complete midfielder". "He can defend and attack. He is a guy who can dribble and give a final ball. Jack has quality and enthusiasm and a love for the game. That is the most important aspect for me. He was outstanding." This is as close as Arsenal (and, for that matter, England) have to an all-action midfielder capable of operating at both ends of the pitch. Title bids and World Cup campaigns depend on such adaptability without decline in quality.
If it is important for Arsenal to have Wilshere fit, 2013/14 is also crucial for the player himself. This month he will start his first pre-season in three years and, whilst at 21 still evidently has time aplenty on his side, needs a season in which injuries are avoided, especially to that troublesome ankle. A place on the plane to Brazil could be at stake and, if fit, Wilshere would surely be a starter for England. His performance during February's friendly against hosts Brazil gave us all a reminder of 'what might be', but that time needs be now. Each injury causes greater setback than the one before.
At 21, the awareness of domestic and international dependency could suffocate a player, but with Wilshere you detect an air of confidence - arrogance even - that welcomes such responsibility. After two seasons of disappointment, he will be desperate to ensure that 2013/14 is the season in which flair and finesse can finally be combined with fitness and fortune.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter