In the Arsenal dressing room it is always the same when the international calendar turns team-mates into rivals.
The banter increases as the matches approach and for those who finish on the winning side, the material can seem endless.
"When France beat England at Wembley last November the French guys were really dishing it out. Theo [Walcott] got it, of course. They were ruthless," says Johan Djourou, the Swiss defender. "Before the game players will say: 'Watch what I am going to do to you, watch how we're going to beat you', and when it actually happens, they push it a bit more. "
Aaron Ramsey, 20, and Jack Wilshere, 19, are the latest pair to face off. The young midfielders should meet on Saturday, when Wales host England in a Euro 2012 qualifier, and for them an occasion laced with personal significance will carry an extra edge. For Ramsey it would be his international comeback – he last played for Wales in November 2009, before he broke a leg so gruesomely – while for Wilshere it would be a competitive debut for England. Neither will want to return to the Arsenal training ground on the wrong end of the result.
"If Wales won, Aaron would give [out]a bit of stick," Djourou says, "although to be honest he is not the type of guy who would give it to you all the time. He is more laid-back. Would Jack give it out more? Yes. Definitely." The pair are not especially close; team-mates rather than mates, although they do get along. They are different characters and on the face of it they are also in competition for a place in Arsène Wenger's 4-2-3-1 formation at club level.
Both would tell you that they will play anywhere for Arsenal and Wenger has used both across the midfield, but their favourite position is the No10, behind the striker, at the beating heart of it all. It is where the captain, Cesc Fábregas, plays and given that Wenger favours the defensive reassurance of Alex Song in one of the deeper berths, Ramsey and Wilshere are effectively in opposition for the other. Wilshere has occupied the place this season, as Ramsey has felt his way back from the injury, and he has dazzled.
It is intriguing to wonder, however, whether Wilshere would have enjoyed the opportunity if Ramsey had not suffered his leg break. The Welshman was playing well before the fateful match at Stoke City in February of last year. Moreover, it is tempting to speculate what might happen if Fábregas finally gets a move back to Barcelona. No one is looking forward to a re-run of that particular saga in the summer, least of all Wenger, but he would appear to have replacements in waiting.
"Aaron only had one question for Mr Wenger when he was thinking about signing for Arsenal," says Brian Flynn, the Wales Under-21 manager who has known Ramsey since he was 14. "That was: 'Am I coming in to replace Fábregas?' But Wenger assured him that he would be playing with the Spaniard and that was the reason why Aaron joined. Now Wilshere has accelerated on to the scene and what an absolute dream it must be for Wenger to have those three."
Ramsey is so quiet and unassuming that he can be mistaken for being shy while it is easy to paint Wilshere as more of a jack the lad, given his high-profile brushes with the forces of law. He has had two run-ins with the police following late-night incidents in London. But Wilshere was still coming to terms with his sudden stardom – he considered himself as simply Jack from Hitchin rather than Jack Wilshere of Arsenal – and, after those closest to him pointed out that he had to accept that he now lives under an unforgiving spotlight, he has emerged stronger and wiser. There is even a feeling the incidents may prove to be useful lessons for him.
Wilshere might be more open than Ramsey but fundamentally he is also a down-to-earth man from a hugely supportive family who likes a kickaround and a laugh. "Jack is the kind of guy," Djourou adds, "who could have a big head by now because people are talking about him every day but he is very humble and he just wants to get better."
Talk to Wenger about Ramsey and Wilshere and the same themes occur. The inner steel and self-belief when they have the ball; the fact they are "students of the game" – Wilshere will always watch the rerun of a match with his father as soon as he gets back to the family home – and the mentality that they have as "winners".
Both played ahead of their age groups in junior football – accelerating the maturation process – while heady comparisons have also been made. Wenger says Wilshere reminds him "a bit of Wayne Rooney when he started, in his belief and in his positive attitude to go forward", and he also sees "a touch of Liam Brady about him".
Gary Speed, the Wales manager, says Ramsey "is in a similar mould" to his own former international team-mate Ryan Giggs in terms of composure and team ethic. "He is the future," Speed says, "but we can't permit ourselves to get into a situation where the moment Aaron isn't there it's suddenly doom and gloom. He can't do everything on his own."
Ramsey has previous against England. In October 2008, having joined Arsenal from Cardiff City a few months previously, he was outstanding in the play-off for the European Under-21 finals and nearly drove Flynn's team past that of Stuart Pearce, losing only 5-4 on aggregate.
Wilshere intends to create his own memories on Saturday and then it would be back to the Arsenal training ground for the follow-up. Ramsey's eyes sparkle at the prospect of an international duel with his club-mate. "There has been banter, a few words between us," he says. Victory would taste impossibly sweet.
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