And so it’s official: Jack Wilshere is no longer an Arsenal player. As if that’s not strange enough, he now plays for West Ham after signing on a three-year deal with the east London club. In a week where England have put together a competent team to reach a World Cup semifinal, this feels like a seminal moment in English football.
For Wilshere this represents a significant step in a stop-start career, an important juncture that could define how he’s remembered as a footballer when the dust settles and his career is over. The expectation was always that he would stay on Arsenal even despite Arsene Wenger’s departure but Unai Emery’s arrival and the subsequent meeting between player and manager undermined his standing at the club. The writing on the wall was clear: he could choose to stay on his own accord but the ex-PSG boss made it clear he would have diminished status in the team. For a player looking to rebuild his career after the disappointment of missing out on England’s World Cup squad, this was far than ideal. A solution needed to be found.
Wilshere to West Ham feels like a deal made to happen. An all-action box office English midfielder signing for a team given to the cult of celebrity and big name acquisition in recent years always felt like an inevitability. Is West Ham a good fit for Wilshere? That’s a question that will be asked for months before the season kicks off. That, though, feels like a moot question. Is it right for Wilshere? Now that’s the real question.
To say Wilshere hasn’t lived up to expectations since bursting unto the scene as a starry-eyed 16-year-old in 2008 would be a massive understatement. A combination of unfortunate injuries and some unhealthy lifestyle choices off the field have proved detrimental to the midfielder. But there’s no doubting of his talent when he’s fit. Last season he played 38 times for Arsenal, the most since 2013/14 and showed brief flickers of his brilliance.
The task now is to show more than flickers of brilliance, to sustain that into a ravaging fire of consistent performances. Fitness wise he looks to be in good shape and should he play anywhere close to his best form, West Ham have gotten themselves a wonderful footballer far above their stations. With Wilshere seeking to get into Southgate’s team after the World Cup and West Ham forlornly glancing at European football, this is a marriage of convenience between two parties who think they’re capable of much better. This could lead to a happily ever after union, or it could end in a messy, teary divorce.