it’s a busy day so I’ve got to fly through the news this morning. The pre-Wigan press conference took place yesterday and with regards team news there’s little to report. No fresh injuries, nobody back, so it will be the same squad that made the shorter trip to Reading.
The only real decision the boss has to make is whether or not to deploy Theo Walcott as the main striker again. Olivier Giroud is a more natural fit for the position and is likely to be fitter having carried a back knack into Monday night’s game, but it seemed to work quite well with Walcott up front and there’s no arguing with the result. As I’ve said plenty of times I think he’s better on the right, it suits his strengths, but when Arsene plays Gervinho up front – and with some relative success early in the season it has to be said – it’s hard to know what he might do.
Speaking of Theo, the boss addressed his contract issue the day after five young British players had signed on for the long-term and said, quite pointedly, that he was happy to pay Theo ‘what he deserves’. He also put it up to the England man to repay some of the faith the club have shown in him since he arrived from Southampton.
I am happy to pay Theo the money he deserves. You feel as well, I bought Theo at 17 years of age and spent a lot of money for him, gave him big support as well. I believe he’s happy here, he’s always looked to me like he’s an Arsenal man.
If you put them in at 17 or 18, you have to stand up for them. You know you risk losing games while they are learning their job. Once you have produced them, you want to say, ‘OK, let’s stay together and win together.’ “Somewhere along the line they need to give back to the club what the club has given to them.
And look, that all sounds reasonable when you look at it from a human level. Arsenal paid a lot of money for a very raw 16 year old and here we are, 7 years later, and he’s still a player whose performance swing wildly from one extreme to another. He’s definitely showing signs of maturity as a player, but he’s still capable of providing the opposition with a throw in or a goal kick with his first touch.
Like other players before him, Arsenal have stuck with him through injury problems, they’ve given him chances to play that he might not have got at other big clubs because of his inconsistency, and now when he’s growing up and showing some signs of progress and development we find ourselves at this contract impasse. And let’s be brutally honest about this, Theo’s image and manner (which are a credit to him, really) have shielded him from criticism at times.
The young, fresh faced, marketable Englishness of him – especially when the local contingent wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it is now – has protected him. There’s little point going into specifics but there have been performances and runs of form that would have seen other players on the end of far more stinging chants than ‘Theee-ooo, Theee-ooo’. And maybe that’s the way it should be, it’s not to suggest that the others have deserved the ire and opprobrium, but it’s a fact nonetheless.
So bearing all that in mind, you’d like to think that Theo would show some loyalty, some appreciation for all that. Yet we live in a world where a basic wage of £75,000 is not considered enough. A basic wage, plus incremental rises each season, plus bonuses for goals and wins and Champions League qualification, plus image rights, plus sponsorships and endorsements and so on. That’s not enough. That’s not sufficient to stay at a club that has done nothing whatsoever except make you a better player, an established international and one of the most recongnisable faces in the game.
And hey, I don’t really blame Theo. It’s the culture of the game more than anything. It’s the people around you, the Mr Ten-Percent who tells you you’re the best thing since sliced bread, that you’re under-appreciated, that they’re taking the piss with their offer, that lesser players are on bigger money elsewhere, that if you run down your deal you can move on a Bosman wherever you like, that a bigger wage and a signing on fee awaits, that the grass, that grass over there, is so much greener. Look at its lustre!
Footballers are footballers, they have little do with contract talks and negotiations. It’s risible to hear them speak about how they’re too busy with three games a week and all that. All they have to do is put their paw-print on the thing and let the club and the agent do the rest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll stand by it, I think Walcott’s agents, more than the player himself, are the issue here. From what I’ve heard they’ve been a nightmare to deal with. Maybe the club could have done more, but as recent signings have shown when there’s a will on both sides it takes no time to come to an agreement.
I’m sure Arsenal do want Theo Walcott to stay but they don’t want to make him their highest paid player. I can understand that. Why would any club pay a wildly inconsistent player more than anyone else? He’s having a good season, and that’s what should drive contract talks, but you have to look at the overall picture and development of the player. I think he’s been badly advised from a footballing point of view. I don’t see him going somewhere else to play centre-forward, that whole smokescreen has been laughable. It’s all about his people getting as much money as possible and as Wenger said:
When a guy gets to 30, you can understand it is his last contract and if he feels he wants a change, I can understand that. This is a more sensitive age.
He’s nearly 24, that’s all. He could sign a new deal with Arsenal and still have that massive, bumper pay day in 4 years time. Until then he’d have to content himself with a mere £75,000 a week plus rises and bonuses and endorsements and book deals. And yes, worse players are being paid more elsewhere, but that doesn’t justify being paid more at Arsenal and isn’t the right reason for a leaving a club which suits you and will continue to do so.
Anyway, que sera, sera and all that. I think it’ll need Walcott to take his head out of his arse a little bit and realise that he’s got it good here, even if he can’t quite see that and his agents won’t allow him to. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and due to the vagaries of Christmas and all that it could well be the last one of 2012. Joining me to discuss Reading, Walcott, Champions League and more is the man from East Lower.
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Finally for today, well done to Daniel Harris for winning the Skreamer boots competition. We’ll be in touch to get details and the boots out to you.
Right, news throughout the day on Arseblog News, back here tomorrow for a Wigan preview, live blog and more.