Jack Wilshere returned to Arsenal in the summer with an uncertain future as he entered the final year of his current contract. The midfielder didn’t impress during his time on loan at Bournemouth and the other options in the Gunners’ squad meant that his first-team minutes might be limited. The England international has long been rated by Arsene Wenger and supporters alike, but his injury record and lack of consistency makes it difficult to fully invest in him. There was some interest from other clubs, but there was nothing that was acceptable to both club and player. He remained at the Emirates Stadium and recent weeks suggest that he could have a long-term future at the club.
It was a huge blow for Arsenal to miss out on the Champions League this season. They are the only top-six club not to be in the competition and that was seen as a negative, especially when it came to selling the club to transfer targets. However, the Europa League has given an opportunity to the fringe players and Wilshere is one of the main beneficiaries. It has provided him with minutes to build-up his match fitness and his performances in the competition have led to a Premier League recall.
Wilshere has been one of the standout players of the group stages and his performances forced Wenger to give him a chance in the league. He featured in all six group matches and started five of them, contributing a goal and an assist. The midfielder averaged 4.7 dribbles and 2.3 key passes per game in the competition. He wasn’t perfect, but he was allowed to rebuild his confidence out of the spotlight and that represents good management by Wenger.
He has now started the last two Premier League matches and impressed in both of them. Against West Ham, he completed four dribbles, attempted three shots and made one key pass. His pass success rate of 90% underlines how effective he can be in the middle of the park. The attacking threat he posed was noteworthy, but he was disciplined out of possession, completing six ball recoveries. He was similarly impressive against Newcastle, as he completed four dribbles and ended the match with a pass success rate of 91%. Wilshere almost scored in the match, but was denied by a great save by Rob Elliot.
The central midfield positions have caused Arsenal problems, but Wilshere’s quality in both halves of the pitch have seen him emerge as a contender to be a regular starter. Aaron Ramsey’s injury has provided the Englishman with a chance and his two performances so far will have given Wenger some food for thought. Although the Welsh international is likely to return to the team, there is a case for it to be in place of Granit Xhaka rather than Wilshere.
The last few months have seen Wilshere increase his status at Arsenal and his performances will have attracted interest from other Premier League clubs. Whereas he was in no man’s land during the summer, he now has options. Given his contract situation, January will be interesting. The Gunners should try to keep hold of him and a new contract is now on the agenda. At the age of 25, he could still develop into a Champions League quality player. He has done enough to earn a longer stay at the Emirates Stadium.