There was a time when Jack Wilshere was heralded as the finest up-and-coming English talent in the game.
The Arsenal midfielder broke through as a creative fulcrum for the side – supposed to be the man to highlight the fact that England could produce an intricate, evasive attacker – and he earned lavish praise from all around him.
At the start of 2013, Wilshere put in a memorable display for England against Brazil, as he dictated the international stage against football’s most successful nation.
He was declared the new Paul Gascoigne by the press, the Three Lions’ savior by others and even his teammates were buying into the hype.
“I think he’s got the potential to become one of the best in the world,” Steven Gerrard stated.
“I don’t want to add any pressure. That’s unfair. But playing against him recently and in training, he’s a one-off. He's a lot better than your normal Premier League midfielder.”
The problem is, since, he hasn’t been much better than the norm.
This performance was the last sign of the 22-year-old’s real talent and, with his career stagnating he has been overtaken by the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, especially, Aaron Ramsey at his own club.
Ramsey’s emergence as a Premier League star over the past 18 months is sure to rankle, too. This was the route Wilshere was meant to take, but it simply hasn’t materialised.
Now, he is not just being surpassed by players at his own club; there are other youngsters in North-London threatening to show him up.
Nabil Bentaleb’s displays under Tim Sherwood were one of the positives from the former Tottenham manager's reign, which was ultimately disappointing.
Sherwood may have said the right things in the press, but his tactical decisions were often poor and Spurs certainly did not progress under his stewardship.
As a result, his faith in Bentaleb may be the legacy of his regime. Sherwood trusted the young Algerian to make the step-up to the Premier League and now he is starting to repay the faith.
With a World Cup under his belt, the all-action midfielder has gone under the radar, but for a 19-year-old he carries a huge amount of potential.
There are few weaknesses to Bentaleb’s game and, although the season has only just started, he is already proving a better option than Wilshere – who is three years his senior.
|Won Tackle||Interception||Total Pass||Accurate Pass||Fwd Pass||Touches||Dispossessed||Appearances||Mins Played|
Bentaleb has been more available to receive possession, completed more passes and worked better defensively than his Arsenal counterpart and is starting to highlight the potential which Sherwood saw in him.
Spurs fans actually had joked about their former boss’s supposed favouritism towards the all-action midfielder last season, but he is proving them wrong.
What Spurs have in Bentaleb is one of the best youngsters in the Premier League and he should be cherished not ridiculed.
Indeed, the man who gave him his chance has already identified a path for him to progress under Spurs’s exciting new manager, Mauricio Pochettino.
"He still needs to develop and is not the finished article yet, but in the future he could be that sort of goalscoring midfielder,” the out-of-work manager, Sherwood, said.
"If Mauricio Pochettino is looking for that sort of player, then Nabil is perfect. He has to play regularly, though, if his development is to continue."
It is the exact role that was once outlined for Wilshere, but whilst Bentaleb is flourishing the Arsenal man is regressing.
This year may be make or break for Wilshere as before long he will no longer be able to be considered a youngster and he may just turn into exactly what Gerrard insisted he wasn’t – an average Premier League midfielder.