Jack Wilshere's Arsenal career is over but if he can cope with the feeling of rejection then there is still time for him to bounce back, writes Adam Bate.
It has been a chastening few weeks for Jack Wilshere. First there was the omission from Gareth Southgate's England squad, a decision about which he has made no secret of his annoyance. Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek played fewer games for their clubs last season but they were still preferred. Southgate simply thought they were better options.
Then came the meeting with new Arsenal head coach Unai Emery. Wilshere had already accepted reduced terms to stay at the club where he has made so many memories and won so many admirers over the past 17 years. There would be no transfer fee for Arsenal. But there would not be much football either. Emery just wasn't that keen, Wilshere explained.
"Following a number of extensive conversations with those at the club, and in particular a recent meeting with the new manager Unai Emery, I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons. It was made clear to me that my playing time would be significantly reduced should I decide to stay."
Wilshere confirms Arsenal exit
Jack Wilshere has confirmed he will leave Arsenal when his contract expires after Unai Emery failed to give him assurances of regular playing time.
Wilshere's statement, released on Instagram, continued: "I need to be playing regular first-team football and following my meeting with Mr Emery I came away with the feeling that it would be very difficult for me to do so at Arsenal. Given this, I feel I have no option but to pursue other opportunities in order to progress my career on the pitch."
For much of his career, Wilshere has been told that he is special. The future of English football, according to Xavi Hernandez. A player with Spanish technique but an English heart, in the words of Arsene Wenger. The only thing that was questioned was his fitness. So when Wilshere declares himself "fit, sharp and strong" one can only imagine his confusion.
There is a fixation about Wilshere's physical condition but there have been no major injury concerns for over two years now. He made 27 Premier League appearances on loan at Bournemouth in the 2016/17 season. "He is behind a lot of our good football," Eddie Howe told Sky Sports. And there were 38 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions last term.
The problem for Wilshere is that much of the optimism about his career hinged on the anticipated progress that he might make. An England international at 18, he caught the eye against Barcelona later that season. There would have been long odds back then that he would be left to watch the World Cup on television and without a club in 2018.
But the landscape looks rather different now. Instead of developing into the sort of central midfielder around whom a top team is built, Wilshere has come to decorate games rather than dominate them. The dynamism of his younger days is no longer quite so evident and, even for a player with his touch, that turn of pace can be crucial in the Premier League.
Transfer Talk: Fekir move back on?
The Transfer Talk panel the potential of a fresh move by Liverpool for Nabil Fekir.
Arsenal's pursuit of 22-year-old Lucas Torreira underlines the fact that football waits for no man. The Uruguayan has four years and a couple of yards on Wilshere. So while he looks to make the move from Sampdoria to Arsenal, it is perhaps no surprise that the man he will replace at the Emirates Stadium is being linked with a transfer in the opposite direction.
AC Milan has also been mooted as a possible destination and there is a feeling that Italy, with its perceived emphasis on the technical over the physical, would suit Wilshere. If he is happier to stay in England then West Ham would bring with it different challenges, although his time at Bournemouth showed that he can be an asset for a team outside the top six too.
But wherever Wilshere turns up the next, it will be the psychological test ahead of him as well as the physical one that he must overcome. If he is able to bounce back from this setback then there is still plenty of time for him to enjoy a long career at the top. If he allows it to demotivate him then there will surely be no way back.
The suggestion that he "will be working tirelessly" to ensure he is "in peak condition ahead of the new season" is an encouraging sign but this has become about so much more than merely proving his fitness now. He must also prove that both Emery and Southgate have seriously underestimated his capabilities. At 26, Wilshere's career is at the crossroads.
Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.