Another week and yet another big name player appeared to be heading for the exit door after throwing his toys out of the pram during contract talks. It now looks like the whole affair was a storm in a teacup and that Arsenal have bent over backwards to accommodate his agent’s demands. The label of ‘big name player’ is especially pertinent in the case of Theo Walcott since this distinguishes him from Arsenal’s other summer departures, Van Persie and to a lesser extent, Alex Song. The potential repercussions of VP’s move were there for all to see, a long time before he decided to jump ship and renounce his faith in the Wenger project.
Despite the occasional inconsistency, Song anchored the midfield and towards the end of his time at the club had begun to develop as an attacking threat. Walcott is neither key to the club’s future success nor a major feature of it’s sparse achievements since his arrival in 2006. Both criteria are equally important since they dictate our ability to attract high calibre signings and more generally define the confidence levels in the dressing room and amongst the fans. This is one of the many reasons why I believe the decision to continue talks with Walcott after his petulant rejection of a £75,000 a week contract offer was a grave error.
Walcott is neither key to the club’s future success nor a major feature of it’s sparse achievements since his arrival in 2006.
Lack of footballing talent is not the fundamental problem in this instance (after all, this is a player who Pep Guardiola described as “faster than all our players put together”). The frequent portrayals of Walcott as a 100m sprinter with championship level skills are undoubtedly harsh. Notwithstanding some basic flaws in his technique, his pace is a serious asset and his ability to unpick defences intent on playing high up the pitch should not be forgotten. His finishing has come on leaps and bounds and at a time when the Arsenal attack seems particularly goal-shy, it would be perverse to casually offload a player who has scored 24 goals in two very injury-hit seasons.
Instead, the most convincing argument in favour of cashing in on Walcott at this stage lies in the benefits it would have for Arsenal’s PR. If Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law had any sense they would attempt to spin the story in their favour. Rather than portraying the sale as a financial stalemate in which the club reluctantly consent to sell their contract rebel to a major rival, it would put a positive gloss on the Van Persie saga. Both players represent the old guard (ironically, considering the tender age of Walcott) and an unbridled clearing of the decks would send out a very strong message. The pair of them, in spite of their unquestionable contribution to the club, embody the fruitless pursuit of silverware over the last 7 years and are inextricably linked with this sense of anguish and disappointment. Oxlade-Chamberlain does not carry this baggage and neither do Giroud nor Podolski, although only time will tell whether any of these three have what it takes to bring about a reversal in fortune for the club.
If Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law had any sense they would attempt to spin the story in their favour.
By presenting the sale of Walcott as being the final stage of a widespread overhaul in personnel, entirely unrelated to money, Arsenal could have succeeded in providing the cosmetic lift so desperately needed after another damaging summer. Wenger clearly feels a sense of obligation to start Walcott, thereby stunting the progression of Oxlade-Chamberlain and breeding resentment amongst those more deserving players sitting on the bench. This casts an enormous shadow over the club, which would be lifted if the player were swiftly dispatched with as little animosity and strife as possible. The numerous clichés about disloyalty and the modern player’s preoccupation with money could not be more apt when it comes to Walcott, a player with whom Wenger has displayed a remarkable degree of patience. Its madness to break the bank for such a player when the transfer money could be re-invested in fresh legs.
The numerous clichés about disloyalty and the modern player’s preoccupation with money could not be more apt when it comes to Walcott
Although I believe this to be the most sensible course of action, I have very little faith in the board’s ability to act at all astutely. It is hard to imagine a situation in which Walcott was quietly moved on, without the usual, tedious questions being asked in the media about the club’s “ambitions”, which in my mind would by vindicated by his sale.
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