Arteta confirms Wilshere talks but plays down playing contract

Mikel Arteta confirms the club are in conversations with Jack Wilshere, but plays down any talk of the midfielder getting a playing contract.

The story involving Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, and Arsenal has been steadily growing over the last couple of weeks.

It started with Wilshere speaking out on his desire to find a new club, and admin issues ruining his plans to join Como in Italy. Arteta then told a press conference that Arsenal’s doors were always open to Wilshere, who is “loved by everyone [at the club]”.

Wilshere responded to the comments by admitting they were nice to hear, and he was sure he’d be having a conversation with someone at Arsenal in the coming days. Arteta now claims those conversations are ongoing.

“We are in conversations with Jack to understand as well what he needs, what he’s looking for,” Arteta said on Thursday. “He’s a person and a player who has huge admiration from everyone. We are willing to help him as much as we can. He knows that.”

As for the suggestion that Wilshere could even get a contract to play for Arsenal again, Arteta added: “I wouldn’t take it that far.”

That’s not a hugely surprising response. Even if there is a small chance Wilshere could end up playing for Arsenal again, there’s no point getting anyone’s hopes up when it’s still so unlikely at this stage.

Arsenal are also in the midst of refreshing and rebuilding the midfield, with the likes of Lokonga, Odegaard, and Smith Rowe backed up by academy talents like Azeez and Patino. So re-signing Wilshere would feel like going against that new policy.

But if the club can help Wilshere get fit, help him get competitive, have him around those young midfielders to help them in return, that sounds like a good thing for all involved.

Jack Wilshere on his Arsenal regret

Wilshere has also 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 in March, 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.

There is, of course, always the option of him returning one day in a coaching capacity.

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