Here’s one for your January 2022 free agents XI: There’s a former PFA Young Player of the Year, double FA Cup winner, double Goal of the Season winner, under the age of 30, floating around north London at the moment.
That’s right, it’s Jack Wilshere Comeback Talk season again! One of Hale End’s favourite sons arrived back at Arsenal this month for a few months of training, including some coaching with the Under-23s as he works towards his badges.
Manager Mikel Arteta has said that his focus is on helping his former midfield teammate to his coaching badges, but Wilshere told 90min this week that he’s got his eyes on a return to full fitness ahead of a potential comeback to club football in January.
Wilshere was talking at the launch of the ‘Utilita Kids and Girls Cup’, one of Britain’s biggest junior football tournaments with over 22,000 schoolchildren set to take part in the six-a-side tournament for the chance to represent their local EFL club, and play at Wembley.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who were there when I left, who I spent ten years of my life with. I’m there until January, training and getting ready for whatever comes next, and doing a bit of coaching as well. The most important thing for me is to get my fitness up so I’m ready when January comes.”
Wilshere left the Emirates at the same time as Arsene Wenger at the end of the 2017/18 season, with the club undergoing sweeping changes in the three and a bit years since – including a devolution of power from Wenger’s all-encompassing approach.
“It’s definitely different now,” Wilshere admitted. “Arsene was the manager of the whole club – he oversaw everything, that’s the way he liked it and it worked for him. The club have chosen to go a different way now, Mikel has a lot of power over a lot of things and he’s doing a great job, but there’s also other people in different parts of the club.
“The good thing about the club at the moment is that everyone has a say and helps each other. Per [Mertesacker] is there looking after the Under-23s and played with Mikel, so there’s a good relationship when those two are speaking. It helps with producing young players and promoting them, because Per can tell Mikel about a player and Mikel knows he can trust him.”
A number of those Under-23s players have made the transition to the first team of late – an Arsenal specialty – and Wilshere wasn’t at all shy in praising the club’s most recent graduates, or the academy that produced them.
“There’s so many, you’ve got Emile and Saka in the first team, and Maitland-Niles, Nketiah pushing at the first team, then the likes of Joe Willock who’s gone off to a big club from Hale End. It’s credit to the coaching we had when we were younger, and the coaching that’s going on now.
“Hale End was always a good setup, it’s got better since I was there, and it’ll keep producing players.”
Wilshere also took a moment to move away from Arsenal matters in light of some news coming out of his last club this week, wishing ex-teammate David Brooks well after the 24-year-old went public with a cancer diagnosis.
“He’s a great player and a great person. I spent some time at Bournemouth last season and got close with him,” Wilshere said.
“I know what kind of character he is, he’s been through a lot in his young career with injuries and stuff, he’s got a good family around him, a good girlfriend, Bournemouth is a fantastic club who’ll support him, and I wish him all the best.”
For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209