Jack Wilshere’s future at Arsenal was clouded when he was loaned out to Bournemouth last season, after almost an entire year out with injury during the 15/16 campaign.
Undoubtably to gain more first team football, however, Wenger rarely loans out players he has in his future plans. It seems Wenger might have lost trust in Wilshere’s ability to stay fit for the majority of a season, and with only a year left on his contract, he might be moving on.
But let’s not forget about Wilshere’s potential and appreciate just how good he can be. Let’s not forget his similarity to Santi, who we missed dearly last season, with his menacing dribbling and creative passes. Remember when he ran laps around the Barcelona midfield, and Xavi called him “the future of English football?” The incredible passing plays and runs against Norwich that resulted in one of the most beautiful goals I sure have ever seen? When he gave Van Persie a good spin against Man United, or when he gave Fabregas the cold shoulder against Chelsea, or when he made Clichy a fool and then cheekily chipped the ball over Hart? And of course his trademark, tireless runs with the ball from deep all the way up to the opposing 16- yard box, often resulting in scoring chances.
What I’m saying is, he’s as competitive as they come, when fit he’s a spectacle not to go unnoticed, and he should be in Wenger’s future plans. Even though it might feel like this was a long time ago. Remember, he spent nearly a year in the medical room and was then shipped down to Bournemouth, where his potential was never going to blossom, although there was signs of promise. He’s still that player.
It’s not fair to judge his future at Arsenal from his time at Bournemouth. There’s a big difference in everything between Bournemouth and Arsenal, from his teammates’ skill to the training facilities, and the club’s general ambition and playing style. Wilshere wasn’t exactly surrounded by the likes of Özil and Alexis. To put it bluntly, do you think Toni Kroos would be as good if he was loaned out to Las Palmas?
Wilshere would theoretically be battling Xhaka, Ramsey, Elneny, Coquelin, possibly Ox- Chamberlain, and eventually the injured Santi for a spot in the starting eleven. And even though the partnership between Xhaka and Ramsey excelled during the last handful of games of the season, Wilshere is still a good addition to this Arsenal team.
I think the possibility of Ox playing more centrally next season, which is exciting, in addition to Wenger’s concern about Wilshere’s fitness is what speaks for his potential departure however. Chambo is far more flexible as he can play as a winger, he has previously been impressive as a central midfielder on the few occasions he’s played there, and he showed last season he can be counted on as a wingback as well, even on the left side.
Wilshere would realistically be the third, maybe forth, player in the central midfield hierarchy behind Xhaka and Ramsey, and maybe Chambo, at the start of the season. That’s not a bad situation at all. There will be over 50 games through the season, and it’s unreasonable to say he wouldn’t get a decent amount of those games, and perhaps eventually make one of the starting positions his own. I think he would complement Xhaka greatly as well, with him advancing the ball into more threatening areas and Xhaka holding back, spearing the ball where he pleases. An exciting deep- laying/advanced playmaker partnership.
When, or even if, Wenger sits down with Wilshere over a contract renewal this summer he should be able to promise Wilshere the number of games he can sensibly demand at this time, which is less than half in a rotational type role. It would be wise for both Wilshere and the club to extend his contract another year or two, as a last, hopeful chance on him. It’s obvious his potential is still there, however, the club should be slightly skeptical regarding his current and lingering injury problems. History shows that Wenger has always been very loyal to his long- time players though, and Wilshere has been with the club since he was nine years old. It shouldn’t surprise us if he is offered a new contract and if a midfielder has to go this summer it should not be Wilshere.
Elneny should be the one sold. The Egyptian has admittedly been impressive at Arsenal, but he doesn’t bring anything to the team that Ramsey doesn’t already, and then some. Coquelin can be an important squad player, but only on certain occasions, when we need an aggressive and effective tackler on the pitch, as we don’t really have that in any other midfielder. Xhaka heroically tried that last season with dreadful but hilarious effect unfortunately. With Santi we have to be realistic. He is currently long- time injured and has had a number of surgeries, as well as he’s getting old. He is similar to Wilshere in that regard, but Wilshere is seven years younger and showed promise last season as he was only injured over the last five games for Bournemouth.
As for a new midfielder, I doubt we can get anyone much better than Xhaka, Ramsey, Ox, or Wilshere without Champions League football. I would rather see us give Wilshere a chance, and if there is a midfield injury crisis, god forbid, I wouldn’t feel too nervous with the flexible squad we currently possess. With the exclusion of Elneny, we’d have six central midfielders (Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, OX, Coquelin, Santi) battling over two spots, if Wenger chooses to continue with three at the back. As well as Özil, who can also play centrally.
Next I will comment on Szczesny and Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation.