Jack Wilshere has admitted that he probably shouldn’t have left Arsenal but I’m not overly sure that would have been his choice.
Speaking to the Guardian, Wilshere said, “It’s gone now, that feeling that I could still be there. I decided to leave, whether it was right or wrong. At the time it felt right, and probably in hindsight it wasn’t right but it is what it is.
“I am like any Arsenal fan now – and it is difficult to watch them because sometimes they make it difficult to watch – but I feel like they are on the right path with Mikel [Arteta] as manager. You can really see what they are trying to do. If they could find a little bit more consistency, I think they will get a lot of success under him because they have the manager’s respect and he has the right philosophy. It is coming, I think, slowly.”
Wilshere signed for West Ham on a free transfer when it was made clear to him that he would not be a starter at Arsenal. Manuel Pellegrini talked a reluctant West Ham board into giving the midfielder a three-year deal as both a show of faith in the player and the manager, a move that turned out to be misguided.
Speaking to Arsenal’s In Lockdown podcast in May 2020, Wilshere discussed how his departure from the club came about. Though he wanted to stay, it was clear he didn’t have much of a future at the club post-Arsene Wenger.
“I felt like it went on forever because the (contract) discussions probably started in February and then we got to a point where I was going to sign it,” Wilshere said.
“I wanted to stay at the club, I love the club, I knew everyone at the club, I felt like it was my family and then Arsene left so that dragged on,” Wilshere continued. “They didn’t announce Emery for a while and the club was going in a different direction.
“I had conversations with my dad, my family, my wife, my agent around that time about waiting to see who came in [as manager]. To see if he liked me because of the way the contract was set up.
“It seemed like it went on forever and then as soon as Emery said to me, ‘Look, you’re not in my starting XI’, I was like, ‘Okay, right, I need to leave’. It was very difficult as I said, it felt like Arsenal was my family.”
When Wilshere talks about ‘the way the contract (offer) was set up’, it’s pretty easy to guess what he means. Reports at the time suggested Arsenal were actually planning to reduce the midfielder’s wages, adding in larger performance-based bonuses.
If he signed on and played regularly, he’d end up earning more money than he did before. If he signed the deal and then sat on the bench or the treatment table, he’d earn a lot less.
You can understand why Arsenal made that offer, given Wilshere’s history. You can also see why it would put him off once Emery confirmed he wasn’t a starter.
Even if Wilshere had stayed fit, he probably wouldn’t have played enough at Arsenal to avoid a pay cut. Then, he’d be earning and playing less than he could elsewhere. Hence the move. A totally logical decision and one that was probably for the best for all involved.
Across two seasons with the Hammers, Jack played just 837 minutes in 19 matches with one goal, one assist and two yellows. He played the full 90 in his first three games for West Ham after signing for them and then never again in any competition except the league cup, where he did it once.
He managed 64 minutes, 56 and 45 once each in the league and 82 and 66 in the EFL Cup. Beyond that, his appearances read 5, 5, 22, 23, 20, 15, 12, 27, 22, 13.
Injuries, on the other hand, kept him out of 53 games, tending to come to fitness as seasons wound down.
Ankle injuries have cost Wilshere at least 102 games across his career and 31 at West Ham. When you add in his stress fractures, fatigue fractures, hairline fractures, knee injuries and groin problems, you get to a total of 208 games missed through injury since he first burst onto the scene.
Wilshere played a total of 198 times for Arsenal.
There is, as we have always known, a tremendous player inside Jack Wilshere. From the days when he tormented Pep Guardiola and Barcelona as a teenager until now, we all know what a talent he is.
Sadly, that skill has been delivered to earth in a body not meant for top-level sports.
Wilshere also added that he’s finding life as an Arsenal fan tough, just like the rest of us. “I remember when I was a player – and I’ve got a lot of Arsenal friends and family around me – and I always remember them saying: ‘It’s difficult to be an Arsenal fan,’” Wilshere said.
“Now I know what they mean! Now it is strange but I still feel like it is part of me. Yes, they can be tough to watch at times, but I am really optimistic about the end of this season but more towards next season; [Bukayo] Saka has been doing it for a year now and Emile Smith Rowe has come in. I look at these players and see myself because they have been at the club for so long and they know what it means. You can guarantee that when they go on the pitch they know what it means to be playing for Arsenal and are going to give everything. They have got some real quality as well.”