ANALYSIS | By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
In December 2012, Arsenal announced that a core of five British players had signed new contracts. Jack Wilshere was one of them.
Along with Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, the Academy graduate had committed to a deal running until 2018.
Negotiations with Wilshere had been smooth, and Arsenal were understandably keen to trumpet their commitment to a quintet of richly promising home-grown players.
The name of a sixth Brit, Theo Walcott, was noticeably absent from that December announcement although he would go on to agree extended terms a month later following far trickier discussions.
As revealed by Football Insider, Wilshere has opened preliminary contract talks with Arsenal about extending his deal beyond 2018.
However, sources have said that the early signs are that an agreement could be far more difficult to reach this time around than it was two-and-a-half years ago.
This is due to a number of factors. Last year, Wilshere dismissed the agent who guided him through the early years of his career after being overlooked in a round of new Arsenal contracts.
Football Insider has learned that Wilshere parted with Simon Bayliff and joined with David Beckham’s former adviser Terry Byrne due to the midfielder’s frustration that he missed out in the club’s extensive round of contract renewals last year.
The 23-year-old was particularly frustrated that fellow midfielder Aaron Ramsey was given a new £110,000-a-week deal that lifted the Welshman above Wilshere, whose package is worth £90,000-a-week, in the roster of earners at the club.
Some might say that Ramsey’s improved deal was just reward for a season in which he had been one of the Premier League’s outstanding performers before a thigh injury curtailed his involvement in the second half of the campaign. Wilshere, by contrast, had not really kicked on from his breakthrough 2010-11 season.
Wilshere’s view was that his loyalty to Arsenal, popularity with supporters and talismanic status were equally deserving.
The England international’s future is on the agenda after he made just 23 Arsenal appearances last season and was sidelined by the latest in a series of ankle injuries for nearly six months.
With a settled team carving out results and Arsene Wenger taking a cautious approach to Wilshere’s reintegration into the squad, the player found himself on the fringes as the Gunners clinched a second consecutive FA Cup and a third-placed Premier League finish. He is also aware that Wenger wants to sign a proven midfield anchorman this summer.
Manchester United are closely monitoring the midfielder’s contract situation and, surprising as it may seem, he is deemed to be a realistic target.
United are assessing options to reinvigorate their central midfield, with manager Louis van Gaal keen to sign a top-quality midfielder this summer. Manchester City are also keen.
Wilshere has come to the attention of the two Manchester clubs because he is still only 23, has a fine pedigree and his best years ahead of him, while there is a feeling that he might need a fresh challenge and a move away from the London bubble that has occasionally handed him in hot water with the authorities.
One concern might be his injury record, although Arsenal do not want to cash in on the Academy graduate.
Football Insider revealed in April that Wenger retains full faith in the Gunners talisman despite the series of serious injuries that have stalled his progress over the past four years.
Yet there will need to be a degree of persuasion from Arsenal to extend the deal of the player whose association with the club goes back 15 years. Wilshere has other options, and there is a growing possibility he might use them.