Jack Wilshere's Big Decision: Time to Leave the Premier League?
Jack Wilshere's Premier League demise is starting to look like one of the saddest English football tales of modern times.
Since he was involved at Euro 2016 last summer, Wilshere has left Arsenal to join Bournemouth on loan, found himself omitted from the England squad and is now only used as a late substitute for the Cherries.
While his England pals take on Germany in Dortmund, 25-year-old Wilshere is left wondering where his career is heading.
This week I have been speaking to sources close to the situation to try to discover exactly what is going wrong for the midfield player and how we can expect him to rectify the situation.
Read on for analysis on whether Wilshere can live up to his reputation as one of the most gifted players of his generation.
Wilshere was expected to be Bournemouth's standout player, and as he began to settle on the south coast, there were positive signs that he would actually be their best midfielder this season.
It took until his sixth appearance to complete a full 90 minutes, against Tottenham Hotspur. He was playing the No. 10 role but also won possession back more times in that game than any other team-mate. It was a very good performance.
Yet there has been a change in motion more recently. The last month in particular has been a struggle.
Wilshere was below par against Manchester City and then West Bromwich Albion, and as a result, he was dropped to the bench by manager Eddie Howe. His last two appearances were a five-minute run-out against West Ham United and a 15-minute cameo at home to Swansea.
He has not yet scored for the Cherries this season and has only two assists to his name. Despite some signs of promise, this loan move is not going to plan.
State of Mind
It is an unsettling time for Wilshere, and one source explained to me how his exclusion from the latest England squad hammered home the message about his career being at a crossroads.
Gareth Southgate named an experimental selection, but Wilshere knows he should be an intrinsic part of the national team by now. He should not be having to prove himself.
Wilshere's self motivation has been tested plenty of times by injury setbacks, but one contact described how this latest situation is particularly painful because he is only being judged on form.
He could have stayed at Arsenal if he was happy with a role as substitute. He did not expect to find himself on the bench at Bournemouth at this stage of the season.
There has been talk about Wilshere staying longer term at the club, but I'm informed that would not be an option as it stands. Wilshere is frustrated, but he has to push himself to find a way to end this season on a high.
One More Shot at His Arsenal Career
If Arsene Wenger extends his stay at Emirates Stadium, as seems likely, it is difficult to see Wilshere having any path back in.
Wenger is one of the most loyal managers in football, often to his detriment. He will give players chance after chance, but once he decides the team need to move on, there is usually no going back.
If there is to be any chance of saving Wilshere's Arsenal career, it would certainly need to begin with a thorough and frank discussion between the player and manager.
But realistically, as Arsenal try to bounce back from this horrible campaign, they will not put the club's future in the hands of a player who has been on loan at Bournemouth for the season.
With one year remaining at the Gunners, I'm told no new talks are taking place, and Arsenal officials remain unsure what they will do with Wilshere.
They would not want to let him run his contract down, but what would his sale value be at this stage?
Man City's Interest
One intriguing option that could open up for Wilshere is a move to Manchester City.
I understand that it was during club discussions toward the end of 2016 that Wilshere's name cropped up as a home-grown player who could become a serious target for Pep Guardiola—if he became available.
The City boss is a huge admirer of his style of play and has since hinted about the prospect of signing him.
"I remember in Barcelona and that year we played Arsenal," Guardiola said before City played Bournemouth last month, as reported by The Telegraph. "He left a massive impression when he came. A high, high level. I know the problem with Jack Wilshere was just the injuries.
"He's lucky to play regularly for one season, and he is going to be back to being one of the best midfield players in England by far. He's quality, he's smart and has the quality on the ball.
"He has a special quality with the ball, dribbling as a holding midfielder to attack central defenders—it's not easy to do that."
Whether Guardiola would be willing to put faith in Wilshere recapturing the form he was showing at his peak remains to be seen, but certainly those close to the player believe a switch to City is not completely unrealistic.
As for any other Premier League club that may show interest? I am told not to rule out Everton.
Considering Italy...or China
When Wilshere was made available at the start of the season, AS Roma came very close to clinching his signature. A source told me that Wilshere had talks with the Italian club and was genuinely intrigued by how he would fit into their style of play.
However, with a deal almost agreed, it was then decided he would be better staying in England, particularly as Arsenal would benefit from the greater loan fee.
If Roma, or another big Italian club, come calling again, though, it would surely prove even more tempting. And Wilshere in Serie A could be a really good fit.
There is one other factor to consider: How will Wilshere benefit from his next move on a financial level?
At a time when his morale is low, the Chinese Super League may actually become an option he would consider.
The offer of a mega-contract would leave Wilshere with a big decision to make, as an obvious aspect of any top football career is to guarantee the future financial security of family.
If Wilshere was to move to China, could we really blame him?