On deadline day of the recent transfer window Jack Wilshere made the move from North London to the South Coast, joining AFC Bournemouth on loan from Arsenal for the season. More than a few people were surprised by this as Wilshere had had offers from the continent, and from more prestigious clubs (AC Milan apparently one of them), but he is now donning the red and black of the Cherries’ for 2016/17.
Some have asked why he chose Bournemouth when a Champions’ League club was at the door but Wilshere has said he wanted to ensure his best chance of regular football. If one were churlish enough you could read this as a slight to Bournemouth, the implication that Wilshere thinks Bournemouth’s midfield is not as good as Milan’s and thus he is more likely to play for them. With no disrespect to Bournemouth he would, of course, be correct. Fighting for a spot against Ricardo Montolivo, Keisuke Honda and Giacomo Bonaventura would be more of a challenge than fighting against Marc Pugh, Ryan Fraser and Jordan Ibe.
In any case, the move has gone through, and Wilshere appears happy. His ex-Arsenal team-mate Benik Afobe is playing there and Wilshere has stated that is one of the reasons he chose the South Coast club.
What does this mean for Wilshere though. Well the first thing he needs to do is get minutes on the pitch. Everyone in the world knows that Wilshere has been sorely lacking in game-time. Given Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger’s unquestioning trust in Wilshere it seemed that only injuries would remove him from the first team (even at the expense of £42m signing Mesut Özil being played on the wing to accommodate him). It’s ironic then that Wilshere has had an appalling run of injuries, missing almost all of last season after surgery on his troublesome leg. He did travel with the England team to the European Championships over the summer but his performances, like the team’s in general, left much to be desired. This season is a chance for him to rediscover his best form and prove that he can maintain his fitness.
You could say that his best season in the Premier League was his loan spell at Bolton Wanderers during the 2009-10 season. He set the league alight with glimpses of his potential and was often the difference on the pitch for the Trotters. Since then he has only turned it on occasionally. He can ride a tackle as well as Leo Messi but, as many teams do against Arsenal, he just gets kicked off the ball now. He needs to be cleverer, have better movement on and off the ball. He can pick a pass and deliver it brilliantly but, as with all his impressive talents, he shows them too inconsistently. The promising 16-year-old is now an established 24-year-old but he has yet to kick on and take the next step.
Given the intense competition at Arsenal now, with Mesut Özil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla all fighting for the same four or five positions there are a lot of world-class players Wilshere has to contend with. When you also consider that, after this season, Wilshere will only have one more year left on his contract it is imperative that he does well.
If not then he could find himself on the way out of the Emirates permanently.