Arsenal must use Jack Wilshere and several players have reason to worry
The calls for Jack Wilshere to be included in Arsenal's Premier League lineup are growing stronger with every game the midfielder plays in the team's cup competitions.
Arsene Wenger has so far decided to hold Wilshere back from the intensity of the English league, easing him back gradually from the broken ankle he suffered toward the end of last season. But after Wilshere was Arsenal's standout performer for the second Europa League game in a row -- helping create a stunning winner from Olivier Giroud against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night -- even Wenger seems to agree that he is ready for bigger things.
"He will get a chance in the Premier League," Wenger said after the game. "Don't worry about that."
There are several Arsenal players who should feel worried, though.
Even if Wilshere will probably be on the bench again this weekend at Everton, the question now isn't whether he should be a first-team regular -- he clearly should -- but which player should give way to make room for him?
There are plenty of options for how to use Wilshere in the league going forward. The only one that should be ruled out completely is leaving him on the bench.
Drop Mesut Ozil
This seems to be the solution most fans are calling for. The German playmaker has been unconvincing this season, and there are serious doubts about his commitment to the club amid continued speculation about a move away in January with his contract expiring in the summer.
Even if Ozil was fully committed, the gap in quality between him and a fit Wilshere isn't that big, and the former Arsenal academy product adds a combative streak the German can't provide. Giving Wilshere a run in an attacking midfield position now will make it clear whether Arsenal can live without Ozil come January and whether should they consider a sale.
Wilshere hasn't had much of a chance to play with Alexis Sanchez because of his injuries and loan move, but the two should form a good partnership.
Drop Granit Xhaka or Aaron Ramsey
It's no secret that Wilshere functions best as an attacking midfielder, but a good argument can be made for using him as a deeper-lying playmaker. Wilshere is a natural No. 10, but Wenger's 3-4-2-1 forces him to operate further out left if he's in an attacking role. Playing as one of the two central midfielders would get him more involved in the buildup play while giving him license to make those driving runs forward with the ball.
Xhaka was heavily criticised for his slack defending after the Watford loss and would be the most likely player to face the axe. However, a Wilshere-Ramsey partnership may leave the defence too exposed, causing a bit of a dilemma for Wenger. He could be tempted to pair Wilshere with Francis Coquelin, but it's hard to see him sacrificing both Ramsey and Xhaka to make room for Wilshere.
Perhaps a more attractive option would be to drop a centre-back instead. Wenger has stuck with his back-three formation in every game this season, but has said repeatedly he also plans to use his traditional 4-2-3-1 at times. Wilshere could give Wenger the perfect excuse to revert back to his more attack-minded style of play, which would leave enough room for both the Englishman and Ozil.
Again, Wilshere could either play as one of two central midfielders, or as part of the attacking trio behind the striker -- even though that would force either him or Ozil to play out wide if Wenger wants to use them both.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.