Jack Wilshere has opened up to Sky Sports News about his feelings on Mesut Ozil’s exclusion at Arsenal, his ambitions to find a “big club” and to discuss why top-level, creative midfielders are “fading” out of modern football, in an exclusive interview.
Former Arsenal team-mates Wilshere and Ozil both find themselves watching this season’s events unfold from the outside in.
Wilshere is without a club after agreeing to terminate his contract with West Ham in October, while Ozil was a surprise omission from Mikel Arteta’s 25-man Premier League squad at the start of the campaign.
Arteta’s decision left a lot of people confused, Wilshere included. The Arsenal manager has put Ozil’s absence down to footballing reasons, but the scrutiny has only intensified with Arsenal’s continued struggle to score from open play.
“I think he’d be a big player in that team,” Wilshere says of Ozil, with whom he won two FA Cup trophies.
“I would love to see Ozil play in that team under Arteta but obviously that’s not happening at the moment. He could get on the ball and feed the likes of [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and [Alexandre] Lacazette.”
Wilshere, who shared a dressing room with Ozil at Arsenal over a five year period, says he hasn’t spoken to the World Cup winner about his situation but thinks the truth will come out eventually.
“I loved playing with him,” Wilshere tells Sky Sports News. “He was a top player. It’s a shame, but what is happening is happening, and no one knows but I’m sure everyone will find out one day.”
‘Realistic’ Wilshere on struggle to find a ‘big club’
Nearly two months on from his West Ham exit, Wilshere is still without a club as he continues to build up his fitness so he is “ready to go from the start” should the right offer arrive.
The 28-year-old has held negotiations about finding a new team – “talking to clubs in Europe mostly” – and is keen to land somewhere he will be valued and suited to his style of football.
“I’m in a position now where I can make a decision based on footballing reasons and pick the team that I think I could fit into,” he adds.
“I will have a look at the team, the players, the league they’re in and how the manager wants to play. I don’t think being at a smaller club like West Ham really suited me. There have been a few talks with clubs, but nothing that I have ever fancied quite yet.”
Wilshere says none of those conversations have been with bigger clubs “because if they were then I would have signed for one”.
He does not disclose the name of the teams he has spoken to out of respect for their current midfielders. There is still a sense of hope, however distant, from the England international that he can play for a top team again but Wilshere remains realistic.
“I don’t think I have a preference to be honest,” he says. “It has to be the right club for footballing reasons whether that is in England, Spain, North America or anywhere, across Asia.
“I’m up for trying anything and I think at this point I have to be as well because I have been at a top club in England, I’ve been at a smaller club and I’m realistic to know that the chances of getting a big, big club in England are slim, so it might have to be somewhere else I have to look.”
Are creative midfielders being pushed to the fringes?
The struggles of Wilshere and Ozil may be somewhat connected. Across Europe, there is less and less space for No 10s and creative midfielders in this era of high-pressing football that has become so prevalent. Wilshere thinks there is still space for the creative midfielder, it just depends on their ability to adapt to the continuously evolving demands of modern football.
“I don’t think they are being pushed to the fringes, but I think the role has changed,” says Wilshere. “In modern day football, I think that position demands something a little bit different than what it did even four or five years ago.
“I think a lot of managers would look at what someone does off the ball, rather than what he brings on the ball. It is what it is and that’s the way football has gone.
“I’m sure it will come back to people demanding that position being the role that it was back in the day. You see the top, top players who that played in that position over the years, fading out of the game a little. But I think it will come back.”