"Sylvain Wiltord is shit" seems to be a
common thought on various Arsenal message boards these
days, which led me to consider the enigma that is
our funny little Puma pitchman--is he really as bad
as some make him out to be?
It could be the product of a Parker and Stone-addled
mind, but I can't recall seeing him appear as Mr.
Hankey the Christmas Poo, saying "Hidey ho"
and leaving skid marks all over the pitch recently,
which would lead me to conclude that no, Sylvain Wiltord
is not "shit" or any other fecal-related
tag people want to hang on him.
Seriously, however, he is a controversial player
for many Arsenal fans, a controversy that began when
his signing was first announced. Because Wiltord was
purchased for a club-record fee, there would always
be a natural question as to whether or not he was
worth the money, especially in light of the inexpensive
gems Arsene Wenger has unearthed in the likes of Thierry
Henry and Patrick Vieira. Had he been bought for 5
or 6 million, Wiltord certainly wouldn't be subjected
to the sort of scrutiny that he has been as the club's
However, in terms of other spendy purchases the club
has made, he's made much more of an impact than subsequent
newcomers, especially in comparison to a player like
Francis Jeffers. Granted, Jeffers spent the majority
of his time with the physios before being shipped
off to Everton on loan, whilst Wiltord is actually
playing, but the case could definitely be made that
Wiltord has had more than twice the impact at less
than double the price.
The 2002 game-winner at Old Trafford will certainly
last in many Gooners' memories, and Wiltord has contributed
important goals on several occasions when no-one else
looked like scoring. For the most part, Wiltord has
been a good sport about the fact that he's been played
out of position quite often, when many players would
have thrown tantrums and second-guessed the manager
in the press. His spirit and attitude have been much-lauded,
and for good reason. Being a nice guy and happening
to be on the right side of the transfer market crash,
however, does not necessarily make for an effective
partnership of strikers, though, which is where the
real criticism should be directed.
The Henry-Wiltord partnership simply has not become
the wonder-duo that Arsene Wenger was hoping for when
he shelled out a massive transfer fee for Wiltord,
and it is for that reason the club is unlikely to
offer him the contract package he is pushing for.
Wiltord appears to have been bought to add a different
dimension to the squad, and to a certain extent he
has. Seemingly unconcerned with the perfectionism
you see in a player like Henry, Wiltord laughs at
himself, bounces the ball of his hip or shin or whatever
happens to be handy at times, and often looks a bit
clumsy on the pitch, which would be fantastic if Arsenal
were scoring more goals.
The fact, remains, however, that Arsenal have difficulty
breaking down opponents at times, especially in the
Champions League, and Wiltord was purchased as a striker,
and as we all know, strikers get paid to score. Henry
is the mainstay up front, and anyone wanting to play
as a striker for Arsenal must complement him, put
simply - Wiltord has failed to demonstrate that he
can do so on a consistent basis.
With contract negotiations reportedly at a standstill,
it seems likely right now that Wiltord will not be
an Arsenal player next season. With his form sliding
downhill, open season has apparently been declared
on him. Clearly, Wiltord is not the "answer"
to taking Arsenal to the next level in the Champions
League. He's not the scapegoat some would like him
to be either, though--given his propensity for scoring
when criticism of him rings loudest, I'd gladly take
a bet on him scoring a few more important goals before
the season is over.