ON WILTORD

The phrase "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 record purchase.

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.

 


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