Anyone paying attention to goings-on in North London recently will be aware of Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere’s recent returns to action for Arsenal Under 21s after lengthly spells out with injury. For Wilshere, however, his return has coincided with rumours that current Premier League champions Manchester City may be about to make a move for the injury-prone 23 year old in the summer. This leaves the youngster with some serious decision making to do. Does he stay in London or head north to pastures new?
For some, there may be no decision to be made. A lifelong Arsenal fan, England international Wilshere has previously stated his intention to see out his career at the Emirates. Furthermore, for a player who has made only 58 league appearances for Arsenal in the last four seasons, including the 2011-12 season in which he did not appear at all, there may be reason to think that Wilshere owes a debt to the club who have so loyally stood by him and treated his numerous injures in his short career.
A Premier League regular since his breakthrough season on loan at Bolton in 2009-10, Wilshere was once the darling of the English game. Seen as the English Iniesta in some quarters, he was touted as being the future of the England team, the man around which a British brand of tiki taka could be built. Short in stature but solid in frame, Wilshere was able to combine strength, a degree of pace and an ability to take on players with the vision and touch of his continental contemporaries. Goals have yet to become part of his game – he only has 12 to his name in his professional career – but what he lacks in fire power, he more than makes up for in technical ability and his ability to influence the game from an advanced position in the middle of the park. He has more often been deployed as a defensive midfielder for his national team, but there is no doubt Arsenal gaffer Arsene Wenger sees Wilshere’s strength in being deployed further up the field. Of course, Arsenal possess an embarrassment of riches in this particular area and, with players like Ozil, Cazorla, Walcott and Welbeck to contend with, some see Wilshere’s return to the Arsenal first team as something less than inevitable once he is fit.
With that in mind, the lure of first team football and, possibly, the more realistic prospect of silverware at Manchester City, could prove too strong for young Jack. Of course, with a current weekly wage of £130,000, City are amongst a small number of clubs in England and, indeed, Europe, who could afford his services. But, like life at Arsenal, Wilshere may find it proves difficult to break into a Citizens team already awash with midfield talent. With Fernando and Fernandinho owning the two central midfield positions, Wilshere would arguably find himself facing even stiffer competition for places further up the park with talent such as Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and David Silva already there.
There’s no doubt Wilshere would add quality to any squad he joined. His natural talent, more often than not, sees him shine above those around him when he takes to the field. But with an injury record that is, at best, troublesome, would anyone outside the club who has so far remained by his side really be willing to take a gamble on him? At this point, he is in the early stages of a return from a significant layout. He hasn’t appeared for the Arsenal first team since 22nd November last year and it’s possible he’s no longer the player upon whom so much praise was lavished in his breakthrough years. So often before, injury has seen players fail to return to their former heights – Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Owen spring to mind. Then of course, there are the players who, while by no means ruined by injury, can see their abilities and playing style drastically altered by significant periods on the sidelines – step forward Ronaldo Nazario De Lima. Whether at Arsenal or elsewhere, we can only hope that Wilshere fulfils that potential once so apparent. As most would agree, it would only benefit the game as a whole for that to be the case.