Arsenal will get a glimpse of their future in Wales v England clash
Midfield duo Ramsey and Wilshere may go head to head in Cardiff
An absence of Premier League games this weekend because of the international break could be seen as a frustrating distraction for Arsenal fans who are gripped by the chase for the title.
The interruption to the domestic calendar might not excite everybody, but supporters will still have an interest in this weekend’s fixtures, as two of the Gunners’ brightest stars could play a vital part in the Euro 2012 qualifying match between England and Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Both Jack Wilshere, 19, and Aaron Ramsey, 20, may well feature for England and Wales respectively, as the Arsenal youngsters will be hoping to help propel their country towards qualification.
Wilshere’s rise to prominence has been pronounced this season and he was given his full international debut against Denmark in February.
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Ramsey, however, has suffered a difficult year since his horrific leg break against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium 13 months ago, but his recuperation appears to be at an end.
Following brief loan spells at Nottingham Forest and former club Cardiff City, Ramsey’s patient recovery was rewarded with his first start this season in an Arsenal shirt against West Brom at the weekend.
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It was the first time Ramsey had played alongside Wilshere for the Gunners and, although Ramsey was substituted after 56 minutes, there were plenty of encouraging signs that the two young Gunners could forge a profitable partnership in the middle of the park for the club.
Ramsey’s appearance was a welcome sight for Arsene Wenger and fans alike and the manager believes the Welshman’s return to action was an important part of his recovery.
“He needs these kind of games,” said Wenger after the 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns.
Ramsey is, however, a doubt for the Wales starting line-up on Saturday due to his lack of match fitness, although manager Gary Speed is keen to involve the young Gunner as he gears up for his first competitive game in charge of the Principality.
However, Wilshere stands a realistic chance of starting in England’s midfield in the absence of Steven Gerrard.
The Liverpool captain’s injury will mean a possible starting place for Wilshere alongside Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, although the young Gunner may have to do with a place on the bench, depending on which formation Fabio Capello deploys.
Wilshere’s calm and composed performance against Denmark will have done his cause no harm in a match for which he was widely lauded, even by the usually dour Capello.
“He played very well. He played with confidence, passed a lot of good balls and won back possession,” said Capello after the game in Copenhagen in February. ”It’s not easy for a player so young on a [full] debut to play at this level. It was a good performance.”
Despite arguably playing out of position in the midfield holding roll on his debut, Wilshere was still able to efficiently display his confidence on the ball, and his pinpoint range of passing.
His rise to international recognition and the opportunity afforded to him in the Arsenal first-team could in part be attributed to the unfortunate Ramsey’s absence.
In the past year Wilshere has matured rapidly beyond expectation and is now above the Welshman in the pecking order for central midfield places at the Emirates.
Having been on loan at Bolton this time last year, Wilshere has become a first-team regular for the Gunners.
Saturday’s game promises to be a platform for both players to showcase just how much they have developed, even if Ramsey’s injury leaves him at a clear disadvantage.
Whatever the outcome of the match and the on-field battle between the two Gunners though, Arsenal fans will be able to take comfort in the fact that the club possesses two of the most exciting central midfield prospects in the game, a duo who could be regular stars for both club and country for more than a decade to come.