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January 16, 2011. England and Arsenal fans were left speechless. A star was born. Or so it seemed.
On that day, Arsenal defeated a Barcelona team that was on top of the world. And despite a whole host of midfield talent on display, it was Jack Wilshere who shone.
The 19-year-old from Hertfordshire dominated World Cup winners Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. He demonstrated all the passion and hunger English players pride themselves on, but coupled it with technique and finesse you would associate with the Spanish.
But six years on and things are very different for Wilshere. Promise turned to frustration as the Arsenal prodigy was plagued with a series of injuries. As a result, he has failed to blossom into the player many expected.
His future at Arsenal looks in doubt with less than a year left on his contract and he's been tipped to leave the club he's grown up with. Since regaining full fitness, he has played in the Europa League and Carabao Cup and, although Wenger has been talking up a possible return to the England fold this week, it remains to be seen if the Frenchman can find a place for him at the Emirates.
Hammers Could Provide Fresh Start
If Wilshere is to leave in January, it would make sense for him to join the club he supported as a boy – West Ham United.
The Hammers, who finished in 11th place last year, were on the lookout for a technical midfielder during the summer, but ultimately failed to add in this area. Recently, they have been linked with a move for Wilshere and, after a poor start to the season, it's fair to say they could use his creative talents.
Injuries have ravaged the Englishman’s career and, at 25, he has only played 105 league games for the Gunners.
And after a fairly unconvincing loan spell at Bournemouth last season, a move to the Hammers could be his last chance to live up to his undoubted potential.
A loan move was previously tipped by The Independent, but Wilshere's contract is up at the end of this season, meaning he could be available to sign permanently for free next summer.
Should Wilshere make the move to East London he will be in good company. The Irons enjoyed an incredibly exciting summer transfer window, attracting a whole host of talent to the Olympic Stadium.
Former Manchester United striker Javier Hernández headlined a list of arrivals that included fellow Premier League winners Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta, while Marko Arnautović arrived for a club record £22million from Stoke City.
Hernández has been starved of quality service up front for Slaven Bilić's side this season, but Wilshere can be the man to unleash the Mexican poacher.
Wilshere fits the West Ham way
For the Hammers fan base, the West Ham way is vital and the 25-year-old fits the bill. Sam Allardyce lost his managerial position at the club due to the style of football he played, not the results.
The midfielder possesses excellent technical ability, with the flair to get spectators off their feet.
Wilshere is often praised for his positive outlook on the game as he is always looking to push forward and make things happen instead of playing safe sideways passes.
Wenger believes Wilshere's best position is an advanced midfielder in a 3-4-2-1 but admitted that he may struggle to break into the team with Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez ahead of him in the pecking order.
“For me, Jack is in the position between wide and completely central, or in that area behind the midfield, because he turns the game forward well, he can chip a little ball and he can pass people on the short space.
“That’s why I think the [3-4-2-1] system suits him well. He’s a little bit in conflict for a position with Özil and Sánchez. I consider him as part of the front three.”
The England international is a passionate player and that's an attribute that has always been embraced by Hammers fans.
On the pitch, he is rarely quiet and is confident to bark instructions at his teammates. That, paired with his tireless work-rate, and the more elegant aspects of his game, would undoubtedly make him a favourite at the London Stadium.
Some of his desire appeared to have deteriorated during his loan spell with Bournemouth as he rarely tracked back or grabbed games by the scruff of the neck.
But if he were to join West Ham – the club he supported as a boy, or at least the shirt he was pictured in – we could see the return of that initiative, which could be the catalyst for the rest of his genius.
And then maybe, if he could stay injury free, Wilshere could finally become the player England and Arsenal fans hoped he'd be on that cold January night six years ago.