Why Jack Wilshere's bravery in joining Bournemouth has been vindicated

There was widespread bewilderment when Jack Wilshere completed a deadline-day loan switch to AFC Bournemouth. Once hailed as a future England captain, it seemed a backwards step to leave Arsenal for arguably the Premier League’s smallest club. Wilshere had enlisted in the Gunners academy at the tender age of nine and became the club’s youngest ever player when Arsene Wenger handed him his debut in 2008. More than 100 appearances followed, but a catalogue of injuries meant Wilshere was unable to establish himself in the first team.

 

Nevertheless, there was no suggestion of a move away from north London until very late in the summer transfer window. Being omitted from what turned out to be Sam Allardyce’s only England squad – the World Cup qualifier against Slovakia – proved to be a wake-up call. Despite not completing 90 minutes for Arsenal last season, Wilshere had been selected for the European Championship by Roy Hodgson and came on as a substitute in the embarrassing knock-out defeat by Iceland. To be then cast aside by Allardyce was a shock to Wilshere – but it provided him with the motivation to seek regular football away from his boyhood club.

Stepping into the unknown with Bournemouth was a courageous move. Many scoffed at the decision, particularly with the likes of Roma and AC Milan rumoured to be interested in securing his services. But Wilshere’s rationale was simple. He believed remaining in the Premier League would keep him in the public eye and therefore offer him the most likely route back into the England set-up. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe put forward a persuasive case; with a football philosophy and love for the game that mirrored Wenger’s and suited Wilshere’s own style.

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The 24-year-old’s bravery has been vindicated. He has made only eight appearances for his temporary club but has already earned an England recall from interim boss Gareth Southgate. Wilshere made his Cherries debut against West Bromwich Albion in September and his influence has grown with each match. He has completed three successive 90 minutes for the first time in more than two years. Although Wilshere has yet to score or provide an assist, his quality both on and off the ball has been abundantly obvious to all Bournemouth supporters. He is clearly enjoying working with Howe and relishing the responsibility of being a key player on the pitch, featuring in his favoured No 10 position behind either Callum Wilson or Joshua King.

There is still much more to come from the on-loan Arsenal midfielder. For a footballer of his class, his goals-to-games ratio needs improvement, having scored only six times for the Gunners and twice for England. With Bournemouth likely to be involved in a relegation scrap this season, getting his name on the scoresheet is essential in a team that, the 6-1 demolition of Hull City aside, has largely struggled to find the net. Wilshere struck the woodwork against Everton and Watford and would expect to contribute regularly in the goals for column.

 

Talented youngsters are often overhyped by the English media to a level that is unattainable. Wilshere is one such example who has struggled under the weight of expectation and comparisons to the likes of Spain legends Xavi and Andres Iniesta, which were hastily made when he burst on to the scene. Careers very seldom follow a smooth upwards curve, though. It would have been easy for Wilshere to remain a peripheral figure at Arsenal and reap the financial rewards that come with belonging to a rich Premier League club. But had he followed that path, his England aspirations might have vanished. By joining Bournemouth he took a gamble; one that looks like paying off.

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