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After 17 long years at Arsenal, Jack Wilshere found himself as a free agent after the club released him at the end of June. It would have been a painful experience for the adopted North Londoner to have left London Colney and clear out his locker due to how much he has lived, breathed and loved the club he has spent all his life at, but pastures new can bring a sense of urgency back into his game.
Wilshere has always been one of Arsenal fans’s favourites at the club. Whether it’s because of his die hard attitude for the crest, singing anti-Spurs chants on the parade bus or always giving his utmost in the jersey, the England midfielder will forever be fondly remembered by the Gunners faithful.
It might come as a shock to some fans that Arsenal decided to release him when he looked destined to sign a new contract. While the Gunners weren’t willing to offer the amount that the Englishman requested, they were going to give him a contract that was still respectful given his little contribution over the past few years.
However, since Unai Emery took the reins at the Emirates, it was clear to Wilshere that the Spanish manager could not guarantee him a starting position from next season onwards. There is no doubt about it that Wilshere is unreliable, due to the ankle and leg injuries he consistently suffers, but he had played in 38 first team matches last season – the highest amount in over seven years.
Wilshere looked like he had recovered his samba in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield. He brings a sense of dynamism to the Gunners and gets them driving on the front foot which no other player currently at the club could match. When there are such a lack of leaders at Arsenal, Wilshere can be one – when fit – to be counted on and will seldom shy away from his duty and responsibility.
At 26-years-old, Wilshere’s career is not over by any stretch of the imagination. He might have been released by the club he grew up at, but there have been plenty of offers coming his way from all around Europe. From Fenerbahce to Sampdoria, the Englishman is taking his time to weigh up the solutions and see what’s best for him and his family.
It appears West Ham lead the way, the team his family having been long-standing supporters of, in which the club and player have found a financial agreement. The only thing missing from the deal is a successful medical examination and for Wilshere to sign on the dotted line. Of course, this is football, so things can change, but the deciding factor over moving to Turkey was the fact that he could reside in London and keep playing in the Premier League.
With such heartbreak over missing out on Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad this summer, staying in the Premier League and competing at a high level is of paramount importance if Wilshere wants to rejoin the Three Lions. While Turkey and other destinations can offer luxurious amounts of money (West Ham are still offering a sizeable contract), playing at the Olympic Stadium and battling among some of the best teams in Europe is what will turn the England manager’s head.
Southgate will not rule anyone out of the England team and has a reputation now of picking players based on form, rather than status. Moving to West Ham shows that the former Gunner is committed in rebuilding his way back to the top and adding to the 34 England caps he has already accrued.
One of the key factors now for Wilshere to rekindle his best form and get back to the summit is playing week in, week out. While some ‘bigger’ clubs would be interested in the Englishman’s services for more of a periphery role, Wilshere will demand that he is contention to be starting most games if fit. Of course, there is no contractual stipulation that will be the inserted into the deal, but as long as he is as he should be, Wilshere will be expecting to be a main player in the team he chooses.
For West Ham, it appears to be a very attractive deal. With new manager Manuel Pellegrini looking to bolster his midfield and have a sturdy spine running through the team, they could be signing one of England’s most dynamic midfielders without a transfer fee. Let’s not forget that Wilshere is a very solid, robust and creative player, he just needs to be on the pitch and away from the injury room.
The Hammers will want to be challenging for a Europa League spot next season and with Wilshere only having to think about playing once per week and the occasional cup match, it should give him the best chance possible to keep healthy and prove to everyone that he can be counted on when the time comes to it: a sense of genuine reliability added to his game.
It might take some time for Wilshere to be properly accepted by English fans up and down the country, but with a change of scenery, new goals and aspirations, and a willingness to fight for his shirt, Wilshere might well live up to the player he once promised to be.