On July 8, 2022, Jack Wilshere announced his retirement from football at the age of 30. The former Arsenal and England midfielder decided to call time on a playing career that saw him make 182 Premier League appearances and earn 34 caps for the England national team. Wilshere burst onto the scene with Arsenal as a 16-year-old and was tipped to reach the top. In 2012, he inspired the Gunners to a 2-1 victory over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the Champions League and was poised to become the darling of English football. What went wrong for a talented midfielder who was once compared to Paul Pogba and Marco Verratti?
During his teenage years, Wilshere was a regular feature alongside Alex Song at the heart of the Arsenal midfield. He was praised for showing great physical strength and excellent technique. The 2010 – 11 season saw Wilshere play 35 times in the league and made 49 appearances in all competitions. The successful season saw Fabio Capello; the then England manager declare his intention to give him the ‘holding role’ for England.
Wilshere’s injuries woes began in the 2011 – 2012 season when he suffered a stress fracture ankle injury during an Emirates Cup pre-season friendly against New York Red Bulls. Despite successful surgery, his rehabilitation did not go as planned, and Arsene Wenger ruled him out for the rest of the season. After failing to make an appearance in the league during the season, Wilshere was ruled out for the 2012 Summer Olympics. After 17 months (524 days), Wilshere returned from injury, but such a long lay-off marked the start of his woes. Another injury during the season kept him out, and when he returned, he was forced down the pecking order in midfield. He began to feature on the left wing.
In November 2014, Wilshere was ruled out for another three months after injuring ligaments in the left ankle. During a pre-season game in the summer of 2015, Wilshere broke his fibula and underwent surgery on his leg, ruling him out of action for three months. However, the rehabilitation took longer, and he returned after ten months.
In August 2016, Wilshere completed a season-long loan move to Bournemouth, marking the start of his fall from grace. While returning to the club after the season, several clubs showed interest in signing Wilshere, but Wenger stated that he had plans for him going to the 2017/18 season. In December 2017, Wilshere completed his first 90 mins for the first time since 2014, a testament to the impact injuries had on his fitness. With his contract expired, Arsenal did not renew him, and he left to join West Ham on a free transfer in 2018.
Injuries limited him to just eight league appearances in each of his two years at West Ham before he was released in October 2020. He signed with Bournemouth in January 2021, but injuries limited him to 17 appearances in all competitions. In February 2022, Wilshere signed for Danish Superliga club AGF on a four-month contract until the end of the season. On July 6, 2022, the Danish club stated they would not offer him a new contract for the new season. Wilshere retired two days later, bringing an end to an injury-laded career. What could he have been had he stayed fit? No one knows, but he was undoubtedly an exceptional talent at the beginning.