Arsenal welcome back England's Iniesta

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After more than a year on the sidelines, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has finally returned to full training.

Once Arsenal's next great hope, Gunners fans could be forgiven for having forgotten about their talented playmaker.

But the England international arrives at a fantastic time for Arsenal. A solid start to the season has inspired title talk in that particular corner of north London - remarkable considering the departure of top scorer Robin Van Persie.

The signing of Santi Cazorla has excited Arsenal fans, and the Spanish midfielder has taken quickly to the Premier League. But the Gunners another playmaker, one with an English passport but a Spanish technique.

Wilshere has now inherited the departed Dutchman's number 10 shirt, and for much of the 2010/11 season the teenager was seen as one of the most exciting young English midfielders of his generation.

49 appearances, including an eye-catching display at the Nou Camp, led to Wilshere picking up the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and a handful of England caps.

But an innocuous looking injury picked up during last season's Emirates Cup led to a prolonged break, and setback after setback threatened to forever cast off Wilshere as 'injury-prone'.

But he's back, which is a fantastic boost not just for Arsenal, but for England as well.

During Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson's side lacked passing quality in the final third. The clamour to bow down to the performance of Andrea Pirlo was so great precisely because the Italian's grace contrasted so vividly with England's laboured approach.

Pirlo set the tone in the quarter-final, but as even he discovered, the benchmark for that style of play in Ukraine and Poland was Spain. The World Champions defended their European crown playing a Barcelona brand of football inspired by their midfield maestros Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

And if there's one exciting thing for Arsenal and England fans it's the fact that Jack Wilshere, more than any other England player, mirrors the style and technique of the Nou Camp creators.

Even Arsene Wenger - not prone to exaggeration - could not deny the similarities.

The boy "has Spanish technique, but an English heart" crowed Wenger. The 20-year-old has a long way to go to match the achievements of Iniesta and Xavi, but those who watched his performance in Barcelona 18 months ago will acknowledge a similar standard is achievable.

At the very least, it should be a goal for the youngster.

This generation seems to be blessed with elite playmakers, from Arsenal's own Santi Cazorla to City's David Silva, United's Shinji Kagawa or Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Every title challenger seems to have at least one "number 10" in their ranks - at least in spirit if not in actual shirt number.

Wilshere may operate in a deeper role than these pass masters, but his ability on the ball is the same - he's most comfortable when in possession, with a cool temperament that brings out his best on the big occasion.

But at this stage, just getting back onto the pitch would be an achievement for the England international, who feared his career could be over at one point. Such long-term recoveries are best taken in short steps, and a gradual recuperation ensures the best chance for comptele recovery.

So the trip to Manchester City has come too soon for Wilshere, and the last thing Wenger will do is rush him back.

But for fans of Arsenal and England it's been a good week. Their number 10 is back.

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Robin Van Persie
Premier League
Jack Wilshere

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