Even for a player defined by the low points, Saturday’s visit to White Hart Lane was something of a nadir in the career of Jack Wilshere. Injured in a challenge with Harry Kane, the on-loan Arsenal midfielder hobbled off the pitch just before the hour mark with Bournemouth already 3-0 down – crocked, humiliated, washed up? Same old Wilshere.
This season was meant to be different for English football’s once great white hope. By dropping down to Bournemouth’s level the plan was that Wilshere would prove just how good he really is. This was an opportunity for him to dominate and silence the critics who had grown so loud over the past few years. The ploy has backfired, though.
Wilshere has struggled to make an impression on the south coast, notching just two assists and not a single goal in 22 appearances for the Cherries this season. And that’s as good as it will get for him at Bournemouth now that Wilshere has been ruled out for the rest of the season with the hairline leg fracture picked up in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Spurs.
So what now for Wilshere? The 25-year-old has 18 months remaining on his Arsenal contract, with recent reports claiming the Gunners are preparing to sign the midfielder to an extension. But of all the mistakes Arsenal could make between now and the start of the 2017/18 season handing Wilshere a new contract might be the most foolish. Not even keeping Arsene Wenger around would be so reckless.
It’s time for Arsenal, and the English football fraternity as a whole, to accept that Wilshere will never become the player he was once billed as. Xavi Hernandez might have hailed the midfielder as “the future of English football” not so long ago, but would the future of English football have struggled so much to make an impact at Bournemouth this season?
Wilshere and Arsenal must part ways, not just for their own sake but for the sake of the player himself. The Emirates Stadium has become his torture chamber and it won’t be until he leaves that he will stand any chance of fulfilling himself. Wilshere needs a fresh start and it must come sooner rather than later.
The 25-year-old passed up the chance to join Roma last summer, instead opting to make the move to Bournemouth on loan. Almost 12 months later Wilshere should once again explore the possibility of a move abroad. For a number of reasons, it would be the best move for him both as a player and a person.
Escaping the Premier League would allow Wilshere to leave behind his tainted reputation. It would give him the chance to become more than just a figure of fun. A new country and footballing culture would benefit him as a professional and what’s more a warm weather climate might give him a better chance of staying injury free. There would be no down side.
Yet Wenger still doesn’t seem willing to let Wilshere leave Arsenal permanently, admitting as recently as January that the Gunners could have used the midfielder this season. “Yes, I could use Wilshere now,” the Frenchman said, despite Wilshere’s failure to make any real impact at Bournemouth.
“What looks unfair at some moment in the season is that you know at some stage you could need the player. But even at the start you need to have the right balance between competition and numbers and chances for the player to play. And still today I think it was the right decision for him to go.”
Indeed, it was the right decision to let Wilshere go, but the player himself made the wrong decision on where to go. He can’t afford to do that again. At 25 time is becoming more precious with every passing season for the midfielder. Wilshere still has potential, even after his struggles at Bournemouth this season. It’s time that all parties stopped concerning themselves with the player Wilshere was meant to be and started looking at the player he could be.