Arsenal have yet to offer Jack Wilshere a new contract with Wenger changing the timeframe on it, but does Serge Gnabry’s departure give a hint as to what’s really going on?
In November, Arsene Wenger told the media, “I said many times that [Wilshere’s contract] would be decided in December.
“I wanted to give him six months not to think about that and see where we go. Do we want to clear it up before the January window? Yes.”
This week it was reported that Wilshere had still to hear anything from Wenger about a new deal, so the press asked Wenger about it at his pre-Newcastle press conference.
“I will talk to him. I said [I would] at the end of December.
“We are at the beginning of December so it’s true that it’s not far, but I wanted to see, as well, how much he can contribute and how he will last physically.
“It is, of course, for him to be happy to be here as well, that is important. I consider him as an Arsenal man and, for him, it’s important as well to feel happy here.”
Of course, leaving aside that it’s actually the middle of December and not the start, Wenger clearly did not ‘always’ say that he would speak to Jack at the end of calendar year.
In fact, the end of December would seem like a rather stupid time to try and talk about anything with anyone given the number of games that have to played around the holidays which interrupt things further.
So what’s really going on?
The situation with Serge Gnabry was similar, although the German had far less of a connection with the club than Jack.
He had been out of the team for an eternity with a knee injury, and prior to his showing at the Olympics, nobody was talking about him as a possible first-teamer. He entered into the last year of his contract and it still wasn’t clear whether or not he would be able to recover enough to perform at the highest level.
Perhaps learning from other perma-crocks, Arsenal held back on a new deal in order to see how Gnabry’s knee held up. Having stood by the player through his knee problems, it is reasonable that they expected Gnabry to show some sort of loyalty in return.
He did not.
Bayern Munich came in for him, a deal was arranged that would see him sign for Werder Bremen for a season before Bayern would purchase him. The Germans denied this at the time, of course, and then signed him one year later anyway.
The parallels with Jack are similar.
While he has shown decent fitness this season, he has yet to really prove that his ankles can withstand the rigours of the Premier League on a permanent basis. For as good as he looks, he’s never more than one Paddy McNair challenge away from another six months in plaster.
It makes sense that Arsenal would want to be sure that any further investment in Jack will be wise, both in terms of financial outlay and squad places.
Arsenal eventually offered Gnabry a contract, that he rejected, much to the surprise of everyone at the club. They fully expected him to repay their loyalty, and Wenger called on him to do just that when he said, “I want to keep Serge and extend his contract. We stood by him for a long time.
“He went to West Brom on loan, didn’t play, and we had to rebuild his confidence.
“I allowed him to go to the Olympics to help Germany. I think he’s here now for a long time.”
That ‘long time’ turned out to be 13 days after those comments.
Wilshere, however, is different.
He clearly wants to stay at Arsenal and is unlikely to be tempted away by a European side due to his family situation.
Arsenal do indeed seem to be playing the Serge Gnabry game once again – testing a player’s fitness before they offer him a new contract.
This time, however, they are doing it with a player who is unlikely to throw their loyalty back in their faces.
It is still, however, a risky game to play.