Jack Wilshere heartened by England's blend of youth and experience

Jack Wilshere's first start in an England shirt under Roy Hodgson felt like a new dawn.

"It was great to be back out there again after so long out," said the midfielder who returned to Arsenal's first team in October following 15 months spent recovering from serious ankle and knee injuries.

The 21-year-old emphasised the complete nature of his recovery with a man of the match performance in Wednesday's win against Brazil. "It was a great night for me but the main thing was the team," said Wilshere. "We've got a great blend of youth and experience now. You've got Steven [Gerrard] who talks to you the whole game and Lamps [Frank Lampard] who seems to have been there for the last 10 years and keeps doing it. It's great."

Wilshere has detected an increased flexibility and balance in the squad since he last appeared under Fabio Capello. "It's a good blend now," he said. "Stevie was playing the holding role although he's not really a holding midfielder but you know that, when he goes forward me or Tom [Cleverley] can cover him. There's Michael Carrick and Leon Osman as well. We've got a good bunch of midfielders."

It helps that Wilshere knows precisely how best to release his Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott's attacking skills. "When Theo isolates defenders they can't live with him," he said. "That was the plan, to get the ball to Theo and get him up against Brazil's full-backs who don't like to defend."

While Walcott is frequently referred to as the new Thierry Henry these days, Wilshere's performance against Brazil evoked comparisons with Paul Gascoigne's pomp. Sensibly, he attempted to bodyswerve such analogies in characteristically elegant fashion.

"I don't think one player can ever win a World Cup," said Wilshere. "I've got great players around me, like Gerrard, who is still one of the best midfielders in the world, and Lamps. Of course there's going to be expectations when you're playing well in the national team. But you just have to deal with that."

He indicated that the burden will be easier to cope with while Gerrard and Lampard are still around to share the load. "I watched those two while I was growing up," he said. "To play with them now is a dream come true."

Wilshere believes both can star in next year's World Cup in Brazil. "I think they will, they're great for England," he said. "Stevie's probably the fittest guy in the team, and Lamps has been doing it for years and seems to keep doing it. He got a great goal against Brazil."

Suddenly the midfield no longer seems like England's black hole and Wilshere is convinced it has something to do with Hodgson's system. "I think the formation helped against Brazil," he said. "I prefer playing in a 4-3-3. It suits my game and it suits the other players. We work hard at tactics, that's what Roy does. He gets us working well defensively as well as going forward. If we get that side of things right we can dominate in midfield."

It is a view endorsed by Lampard. "All of a sudden we look like we can hurt teams," said the Chelsea midfielder. "Without getting carried away with ourselves, you look at that team now and you get a little bit more excited.

"Only a terrible injury halted Jack and I know he's going to be a top player. I don't want to heap silly pressure on him because he's very young but he's going to be a massive, massive player for England."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Louise Taylor, for The Guardian on Thursday 7th February 2013 23.16 Europe/London

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