West Ham need Jack Wilshere to justify an expensive gamble

It takes time to win over West Ham supporters, especially if they have been signed from a London rival, so it’s not taken long for some people to start doubting the wisdom of signing Jack Wilshere.

There was early optimism around the club when his signing was announced last summer, but that has been replaced with grumbles about a player on a three-year deal worth close to £100,000-a-week.

Wilshere was a starter for West Ham as they lost their opening four league games of last season – the team’s form improved only after he was sidelined by another injury which forced manager, Manuel Pellegrini, into giving his midfield a stronger, more robust feel for the rest of the campaign.

Pellegrini had pushed for Wilshere to be given a three-year contract, even though other people, including board members, advised that a one-year deal would be better for a player who has been plagued by injuries.

So why did they decide to take the chance on a player in the first place, especially when they had already endured Andy Carroll’s six injury-hit years? The board must have had a desire to back Pellegrini in his first transfer window as West Ham manager, but the Chilean, who loves a creative player, raised eyebrows by comparing Wilshere to Andrea Pirlo after a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth last August.

The signing looked even more questionable when Wilshere was forced to have ankle surgery in September last year, returning in December, only to then suffer more ankle problems.

So, what about this season? Well, Pellegrini looks determined to give Wilshere an important role. With Mark Noble out with a thigh strain, Wilshere has partnered Declan Rice in West Ham’s first two games of this season but has gone off early on both occasions.

He went off with a dead leg during the 5-0 home defeat to Manchester City, and only completed 10 passes in the 1-1 draw at Brighton, before coming off for Michail Antonio.

It must raise concerns about Pellegrini’s attacking approach, but also about why he spent a significant amount of the Hammers summer budget on Pablo Fornals, another attacking midfielder, when he already had Wilshere. Is Pellegrini now starting to doubt the wisdom of pushing for a three-year-deal himself?

It is still early in the season and there is time for Wilshere to get more matches under his belt and come into form. On his day, he does possess undoubted class, and we might yet see that. But there will always be doubts about his injury record.

He was once tipped as a future England captain, with clubs such as Barcelona tracking him. But as the Premier League only gets quicker, Wilshere is starting to look more out of place at this level. Perhaps a move abroad to a slower pace of football would benefit him, but with a contract that runs to 2021 at West Ham, which other club will take the gamble the Hammers have?

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