The comparisons are easy to draw – stocky, fleet-footed figures who, on their day, are capable of producing moments of magic and single-handedly carrying those around them to bigger and better things.
The question has to be asked, though, of whether we, as modern day football fans, want to see Wilshere branded as ‘the next Paul Gascoigne’.
There is, of course, plenty to be said for following in such illustrious footsteps, with Gazza, at the peak of his powers, widely recognised as being the finest English performer of his generation.
For too long, a nation starved of international success had produced good players, steady professionals who got the job done but rarely raised their head above the parapet of ‘decent’ or ‘promising’.
In Gascoigne, England had unearthed a truly world-class talent, someone to get the fans off their seats and have them dreaming again. Italia ‘90 will be forever his tournament, and not just for the tears.
Wilshere has a long way to go before he can claim to be held in such high regard, but the potential is clearly there.
In his pomp, the Arsenal man is a force of nature, swarming all over the field, putting his boot in and leading the charge.
Much like Gazza before him, and unlike many of those he plays alongside at international level, the 23-year-old’s first instinct is always to look forward, to get the ball out of his feet and endeavour to push opponents back with a driving burst at the heart of their defence.
If England had more players like that, rather than apparent ‘stars’ reluctant, or possibly incapable of taking a risk, then maybe greater progress would be made.
Wilshere’s performance in his most recent outing – one which delivered a match-altering two-goal salvo against Slovenia – highlighted perfectly what he is capable of when in the right frame of mind.
Had he not been on the field, the first blot would have been put on England’s so far faultless Euro 2016 qualifying copybook. It is that sort of talismanic talent that Gazza once showcased in abundance.
Roy Hodgson needs to see more of that, though, as do a loyal band of supporters. Arsenal, too, a side desperate to make their mark in Premier League betting markets and prove themselves to be worthy contenders for the top-flight crown, will be hoping that a home-grown talent, a man who truly cares about the club, can start spending more time stretching rivals out on the field than he does stretched on the treatment table.
— Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) June 13, 2015
Arsene Wenger will also want to see an end to the generating of disruptive off-field headlines.
It is in this area that Wilshere really needs to ensure that he does not follow Gazza’s lead. Yes, he has to enjoy himself and it is refreshing in an era of media-savvy professionals to see young men prepared to push the boundaries a little and show the public that they are just like them in many ways – considerably richer, admittedly, and at times a little out of touch with reality, but normal people in a position of privilege.
Gascoigne was that, the clown prince of English football and a figure taken to the hearts of a nation.
Wilshere can do likewise, time is still on his side, but he needs to tread carefully. He must find a way – something an iconic figure before him never really managed to do – of balancing his public and private life and of maintaining high standards throughout a distinguished career, not deliver in fits and starts and eventually fade away.
The young Gunner, who openly admits to idolising Gascoigne, needs to ensure that he remains Wilshere I, cementing his own legacy, rather than becoming Gazza II.