As Jack Wilshere limped off the pitch and down the tunnel at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon, the jeers of Tottenham Hotspur supporters filling the air, the most obvious question on the limps of most onlookers was ‘what now?’
You see, since the 25-year-old burst onto the scene as a teenager over half a decade ago he has continuously struggled for form and fitness – the most prominent observation is that he has not fulfilled the obvious potential that he once had in abundance.
He was once the youthful midfield prodigy of English football but has fallen some way short of the lofty expectations that many had when he made his first team debut in 2008.
Injuries and off the field issues have played their part and an inability to secure a place in Arsenal’s starting line-up led him to depart the Emirates Stadium in the summer on a season long loan, with Bournemouth being his chosen destination.
It was supposed to be a move that allowed Wilshere to prove the critics wrong. He was supposed to have a season where he avoided injury, played top flight football on a weekly basis, and had a significant effect on games.
It was supposed to be a year in which the former England international rejuvenated and reignited his faltering career but yet, as he disappeared down the tunnel in one raucous corner North East London, it is hard to come to any other conclusion than the one aired by Alan Shearer: “I think that it’s created more issues [for Wilshere]”.
Analysing Wilshere’s loan spell at Bournemouth
It is difficult to disagree with Shearer’s comments. It would appear that Jack Wilshere’s time at Bournemouth has raised more questions than answers over his long-term future.
Firstly, it is important to give Wilshere credit for being prepared to exit the ‘big-club bubble’ at Arsenal and to pop his head above the parapet.
It would have been quite easy for the 25-year-old to remain at the Emirates Stadium and spend another season picking up a substantial wage packet whilst sitting among the substitutes and reserves.
We often criticise players for lacking the desire to put themselves in the firing line, so it is only fair that Wilshere receives some credit for being prepared to put himself in the firing line in search of first team football.
The move to Bournemouth appeared, at least on the face of it, to be a perfect match. Under the guidance of Eddie Howe the former England midfielder would be able to play regular top flight football in a team that approached the game in the ‘right way’.
However, things have not quite gone to plan and although it would be wrong to categorise the midfielder as having a poor season neither could it be proclaimed that he has excelled.
Wilshere has made 27 appearances for The Cherries so far this campaign, including 22 starts in the Premier League, which will put to bed the notion that he is not capable of surviving a full season in the robustness of the English top flight without breaking down with an injury.
Despite the ankle issue picked up at Tottenham at the weekend it would appear that the injury is not as severe as first thought – the midfielder could still feature for Bournemouth prior to the end of the season.
However, the statistics do not make great reading.
Wilshere burst onto the scene as an all-action midfield player that could directly influence matches with his creativity and eye for goal and yet he has failed to find the net this campaign and has mustered just two assists.
While statistics are not always an accurate reflection of the true story it does demonstrate that, whilst the 25-year-old has performed well at different points in the season, he has failed to live up to his own high standards.
Wilshere’s time on the South Coast has not been a failure, but neither has it signalled the rebirth of his career at the top level.
What now for Wilshere, Bournemouth and Arsenal?
Jack Wilshere has been tight-lipped over what his future may be when his current loan deal expires and he returns to North London in the summer.
Eddie Howe has made it clear that he would like to extend the 25-year-old’s stay at Bournemouth, although whether the midfielder has done enough this campaign to justified further effort and expenditure by The Cherries during the close season is an entirely different question.
Indeed, would Wilshere want to remain on the South Coast, where the possibility of winning trophies and titles is a non-entity? Regular game time is all well and good, but you would imagine that the midfielder would want to see himself competing at the very highest level.
Interestingly, there has also been rumours circulating that Arsenal are set to offer Wilshere a contract extension, with his current deal set to expire in just over a year.
However, the midfield situation has not altered since last summer and it is difficult to see how the 25-year-old would be able to force his way beyond the likes of Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla, Aarron Ramsey, Fracis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny into the starting eleven in North London.
In truth, Arsenal’s motivation in offering Wilshere a new deal would be little more than financial, with the aim of avoiding one of their stars from departing on a free transfer when his current contract expires.
So Alan Shearer is right, Wilshire’s loan move to Bournemouth has created more questions than answers.
There appears to be little logic in the 25-year-old returning to the Emirates Stadium in the summer and yet the prospect of extending his stay on the South Coast is hardly the most attractive proposition.
Once again the future of one of English football’s fallen prodigies will be up for debate, with no clear path or conclusion in sight.
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