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'It still feels like Arsenal' - Wilshere opens up on Arteta, Edu and rejoining the Gunners

08:00 BST 14/10/2021
Jack Wilshere Arsenal 2017-18
The former Gunners star spoke to Goal while helping launch the Utilita Kids and Girls Cups, two of England’s biggest national football tournament

It’s a walk Jack Wilshere has done thousands of times before.

After three years away from Arsenal, the 29-year-old was back at the club’s London Colney training base, having been invited by Mikel Arteta to train with the team once again and get himself fit while he attempts to find himself a new club.

It was all very familiar. The same journey in, the same changing rooms and the same trek from the main complex around to the first-team training pitches.

It should have been nothing new for Wilshere, who was brought up at Arsenal and spent 17 years at the club before leaving in 2018 and joining West Ham.

But even though the surroundings were exactly the same, he admits it all felt a bit different this time.

“That first day, I trained with the first-team and I’d done that walk so many times before,” Wilshere told Goal. “But I hadn’t done it in ages and it was actually quite strange, quite surreal.”

And what about that Arsenal training gear? How did it feel to put that on once again and see the initials JW printed on the front?

“Yeah, that was nice,” Wilshere continued. “It was a good feeling when I first saw it hanging up and it was good to put it back on.”

It’s been more than a week now since Wilshere has returned to Arsenal and those first-day nerves have been left behind.

From day one he has been working with the first team, helping out while several of Arteta’s squad have been away with their national teams.

For a player who has been without a club since the end of last season, it’s been an eye-opening experience, but it’s one he’s relishing as he looks to get in the best shape possible before the January transfer window opens.

“It’s been nice to be back around the place,” said Wilshere. “Obviously, I’ve got a lot of friends that are still here, staff members, people who I haven’t seen since I left. So, it’s nice to be back and to see some familiar faces.

“But it’s also good to be back training with a good group of quality players at a good intensity. It’s what I needed at this point and I’m thankful to Mikel and the whole of the club really for giving me this opportunity.

“Sometimes, it can be difficult for an old player to come back and train with the team but they've all been great.”

Wilshere added: “It has been tough too. I was training on my own and you can train on your own and run as much as you like, but as soon as you get around players, especially good players with quality, it’s a different type of fitness.

“So yeah, it's been tough but I've really enjoyed it.”

Arsenal is a club that has gone through a huge amount of change since Wilshere left alongside Arsene Wenger in 2018.

Unai Emery has been and gone, with Arteta – Wilshere’s former captain – now the man tasked with getting the club back towards the top of English football.

The changing room is full of new faces, but there are still plenty around who played with Wilshere and the midfielder says the club still feels the same, despite all of the comings and goings behind the scenes.

“It still feels the same because as I said there's a lot of familiar faces around the place,” said the former England international. “I’m talking staff members, dinner ladies, the chefs. They’re all still there, which is really nice.

“Obviously, the club itself has changed a bit in terms of the board and the manager and the coaches. But at the academy there are a lot of the same faces around. Per [Mertesacker] is obviously in charge and I know him well.

"So, it still feels like Arsenal.”

Arsenal first contacted Wilshere last month about a possible return. Arteta invited the former Gunners midfielder into London Colney, where he also met with technical director Edu to discuss a potential link-up while Wilshere was still without a club.

It was agreed that he could come back in until January to work on his fitness, while also helping out with the Under-23s as he continues to work towards his UEFA A coaching license.

“Mikel was brilliant,” said Wilshere. “He was easy to talk to, he listened and he asked me what I needed from the club.

“It wasn’t just Mikel, though, Edu was there as well. Everyone in the club has been great. They reached out to me to see what they could do and they followed through with it as well.

“I’ve just got to make myself available for training whenever they need me really, whether it be the first team, the 23s, or coaching in some capacity.

Wilshere added: “They've been great with the coaching as well, in terms of giving me the opportunity. I’m doing my A licence at the moment. And, you know, it's a course which is done a lot in the classroom. 

“But the best way to improve yourself as a coach is to get out there and experience coaching, putting sessions on and seeing what works and what doesn't. 

“And they’ve given me an opportunity with good players. Every coach will say they want to work with good players and I've got an opportunity to gain some experience. I’m looking forward to that.”

But even though Wilshere will be working with the U23s during his time back at Arsenal, he is not ready to make a permanent move into coaching just yet.

He is still adamant he has a lot to offer as a player and the main reason he is back training at Arsenal is to be in a position to join a club once the January transfer window rolls around.

Plenty have suggested he could even earn himself a contract with the Gunners, should he impress enough over the next couple of months.

So, has that possibility crossed his mind?

“To be honest with you, it hasn’t,” he said. “Obviously. I see all the love from the fans, they are asking me if I'm going to get a contract and they say they want me to, which is obviously nice. 

"But I'm just thankful for Arsenal giving me an opportunity to be around players again, to be around the club. 

“Honestly, I'm just concentrating on getting myself as fit as I can physically and being in a good place mentally for January when the window opens and hopefully something comes up."

While taking a break from Arsenal on Wednesday, Wilshere helped officially kick-off the Utilita Kids and Girls Cups, two of England’s biggest national football tournaments for junior schoolchildren.

The six-a-side tournaments give 22,000 boys and girls the chance to represent the 72 EFL clubs on a regional basis and culminate in four national finals, which will take place prior to the Papa John’s Trophy, Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two play-off finals at Wembley Stadium.

When asked why he was so keen to be involved in the launch of the Utilita Kids and Girls Cups, Wilshere said: "I think the fact that the kids will have the opportunity to play at Wembley in front of a crowd and also the number of kids who will have the opportunity to take part in it.

"I’ve got kids who play in grassroots football and play in school football. If they had the opportunity they would love it."

Utilita have partnered with the EFL to power one of Britain’s biggest junior football tournaments, The Utilita Kids and Girls Cup.

As part of Utilita’s work to help kids keep active through playing football, over 22,000 schoolchildren will take part in the six-a-side tournament for the chance to represent their local EFL club and compete for a once in a lifetime appearance at Wembley. To find out more, visit