LONDON – Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has revealed more details about his conversation with Jack Wilshere this summer, saying he told the midfielder he had to look for “a new project” because he would not have a prominent role at the club.
Wilshere will return to the Emirates on Saturday for the first time since he decided to join West Ham when his contract with Arsenal expired, ending a 17-year stint at the club he joined as a boy.
The move came after a conversation with Emery where the Gunners’ new boss told him he wouldn’t be a regular starter – a speech the two said was mutually respectful.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Emery offered more details about the meeting, which he said only lasted 15 minutes.
“Our conversation was very clear. To me, one thing is important to him – being a protagonist in a new project,” Emery said. “Because here he might not be the protagonist every game on the pitch. It’s a more competitive situation for him to play.
“I’m happy if he finds [an opportunity to be the] protagonist in West Ham. The first conversation was going in this direction. “
Wilshere told ESPN FC in an interview in July that he was grateful for Emery’s honesty and appreciated that the Spaniard did not try to mislead him about the playing time he would get.
“He was honest with me, and that’s all I could ask for. He was respectful and honest, and we had a good, honest conversation about football and where he sees my game. And I can only thank him for this, ”Wilshere told The Times.
Wilshere, who also hopes to reclaim a place in the England squad, has started both games for West Ham so far this Premier League season and is also expected to be part of Manuel Pellegrini’s XI on Saturday.
Emery said earlier on Thursday that he expected the Emirates crowd to receive a great reception for the longtime fan favorite.
“The first thing for me is that I have respect for his career here,” Emery said. “And then he chose what was best for him in his future. That’s why, on Saturday, I know that here, the supporters love him and have that respect too.
“I think there is a warm welcome for him here. … Before the game we can remember him, and then in 90 minutes we think we win this game.”
Emery also said the club will do everything possible to support Mesut Ozil, who continues to be criticized at home in Germany after his decision to withdraw from the national team after receiving racist abuse during and after the World Cup.
“We are helping to help her. We are her family and this is her home,” Emery said. “We are used to receiving criticism – we are professionals. In our careers, as coaches and players, we are going to receive criticism.
“When we do well, they will talk about us well. We have to live with it. Here we need and we want to help him.”