Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere confirmed on Instagram that he would be leaving the club at the end of his contract this summer, having been told by new manager Unai Emery that he wouldn’t be a first-team regular next season.
The 26-year-old has been in contract talks with Arsenal all summer without making progress. It was previously believed he rebuffed the Gunners’ offer as he was unwilling to take a paycut, but now it’s being suggested his decision to leave the club was down to a lack of assurances over playing time.
But given Arsene Wenger told Wilshere last summer that he could leave as he wouldn’t be a regular in the squad, why is Emery’s revelation such a shock this summer?
Last season, Wilshere made 38 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal, which was his best return since 2010/11, but he didn’t make much of an impact in the Premier League. The playmaker featured 20 times in the top flight but only made 12 starts, amassing 1187 minutes from a possible 3420 (34.7%), which may have been a factor in his decision to leave.
He fell down the pecking order to Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny and may have felt he’d be stuck on the bench next season had he remained at Arsenal. But would that have been the case? Wilshere would have expected Ramsey and Xhaka to start ahead of him in a two-man midfield, but the English international still had a role to play at the Emirates.
Emery favoured a 4-3-3 system as Paris Saint-Germain manager, which would boost Wilshere’s hopes of featuring as Arsenal have little in the way of midfield depth. Ramsey, Xhaka, Elneny and Wilshere would potentially compete for three places most weeks, so would it be unlikely that the 26-year-old got regular playing time?
Before the situation even reached this stage, Arsenal should have looked to cash in last summer. Wilshere has now been told by two managers that he’s surplus to requirements, but no buyer was found last season and it’s led to the Gunners losing a valuable asset and talented academy graduate for nothing.
For somebody who was a fan favourite and embodied the spirit Arsenal look to instil in their players, losing Wilshere in this manner will hurt. At the age of 26, he can still be one of the best creative midfielders in the Premier League and should have fetched a good amount of money had Arsenal acted more ruthlessly. Now, they have to spend to find a replacement.