Jack Wilshere: Can He Turn Decline into Recovery?


When you think of Jack Wilshere, you automatically think of a sick note.

There has always been promise having been labelled 'England's next big thing', but he has never lived up to the hype. Always falling just short. But having got himself a loan move away from Arsenal to the south coast where he will join up with Eddie Howe's Bournemouth, he could resurrect an injury hit career.

Once the diamond of the Arsenal youth set-up, those days are long gone for Jack Wilshere. His needless, reckless challenges that put his body at risk have been his downfall from the get go, but now he is looking to turn decline into recovery as he swaps the red of Arsenal for the red of Bournemouth.

Injuries continue to hamper his career:


Back in the summer of 2011, Jack Wilshere limped off the pitch during a preseason game against New York Red Bulls, leaving the 19-year-old left on the side-lines until October 2012. Since then, the theme has continued, as he has spent on average two seasons out injured.

Having had a staggering 26 setbacks in total, with many recurring foot and ankle problems, it has stopped the midfielder from progressing. Not only has he had to deal with long injury layoffs that have stopped him playing, but the psychological effects are just as great. Imagine how tough it is to handle injury after injury, how demoralising it is to keep missing out and the agonising wait of when you can be back out on the pitch.

Xavi hit the nail on the head when the Barcelona midfielder said "If he had a career that had been injury-free we would already be talking about him as one of the top central midfielder players in England."

So far this season he has made two substitute appearances for Arsenal against Watford and Leicester, after making just one start last season. His battle to stay fit has derailed his career, a worrying trend that Bournemouth should be equally concerned about.

No best position?

It could be argued that Wilshere's best and most familiar position has become the physio's table.

There's no doubt that Wilshere has talent and has always had potential since the moment he made a name for himself, five years ago, against Barcelona which marked him out as the great hope of English football. The midfielder possesses efficiency on the ball, boasts a wand of a left foot and is the personification of tenacity. However, he has never excelled in one position.

He's no number 10. He lacks goals and assists, but in equal terms he's too reckless to play as a deep-lying midfielder.

In notably his best season in an Arsenal shirt in 2010-11, he played in the middle of Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas where he excelled. Song epitomised a holding midfielder, whilst Fabregas was the creator. Wilshere ensured that Arsenal stayed in possession with quick pass-and-move exchanges, a signature Arsene Wenger passage of play. It wasn't pretty or glamorous, it was the definition of doing the dirty work whilst Song and Fabregas took the plaudits. But it was essential and important to the way Arsenal played.

Yet on the pitch and eight years since his Premier League debut, Wenger is still none the wiser as to Wilshere's best position in midfield.

Competition in the middle of the park:

With Jack Wilshere spending the majority of the season watching on, Wenger has continued to bring in newer, fresher, fitter midfielders making it much tougher for Wilshere to get back into the side.

Replaced by more technically-gifted and talented midfielders, Arsenal have gone into this season with what appears on paper to be a formidable central pairing of Cazorla and summer signing Granit Xhaka. Whilst Wilshere missed the majority of preseason with yet another injury, the two impressed.

£30 million Xhaka likes to stay deep, willing to tackle, but he always has the ability to spread the play with a variety of passes thanks to his beautiful left foot.

31-year-old Santi Cazorla, dubbed the two-footed wizard, directs every phase of the game with his vision and execution. He has admirable positional discipline that Wilshere is devoid of, meaning there is simply not enough room for a player who doesn't even know his best position.

Wenger boasts Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, whilst Francis Coquelin provides a strong, physical presence - on option needed in a team that prefers to play along the floor.

Was Bournemouth an easy way out?


With all things considered, Jack Wilshere was right to go out on loan. Instead of sitting on the bench, limited to substitute appearances, he has gone out searching for first team football. He has gone to rebuild his career and become the player who can once again command a place in the Arsenal team.

After all, Wilshere is only 24-years-old. He is by no means past it and has bags of potential to fulfil.

This is not a loan spell with the intention of broadening horizons or adding a new dimension to his game. Instead, it is a loan spell that is designed to reinvent and rehabilitate himself as a Premier League player.

Pre-Euro 2016, Roy Hodgson deemed Wilshere to be a "special player" worth the risk. It didn't pay dividends as he proved to be inaffective against Slovakia and Iceland.  But, having been left out of England's squad that will face Slovakia on Sunday, his loan to Bournemouth is a smart one if he is to get back into the international team. Sam Allardyce is more likely to take a trip down to Bournemouth than fly over to Italy, if he was to have gone to Roma.

Whether the move to Bournemouth is right for Wilshere remains to be seen, however it does heighten the jeopardy. If he was to disappoint, had he moved to Roma, factors such as language barriers, new culture and a new style of play could have been used to explain his downfalls. Yet, at Bournemouth there is no hiding.

If he is to struggle at the Cherries then it is hard to envisage how Wenger could avoid concluding that the midfielder's time is up at Arsenal.

It is now make or break for Jack Wilshere.

Molly Jennens

I'm Molly Jennens and I am an aspiring football journalist. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy it.

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