Theo, the salary game, and more

Good morning from the windiest place on earth (besides an old folks on home on semolina night).

A few bits and pieces going on this morning as we head into a kind of natural lull considering we don’t play again until Monday. A report in the Telegraph this morning says that Arsenal have had informal meetings with Theo Walcott over his future. Like Robin van Persie he’ll have just 12 months on his current deal come summer and I’m sure the club are anxious for him to commit for the longer-term.

All the same, it’s hard to look at figures like £100,000 a week and reconcile them with a player like Theo (and let me make clear that’s not what he’s demanding, just what appears to be the going rate. I mean, Gary Cahill is reportedly looking for £120,000 per week from Chelsea, which is just beyond outrageous). When it comes right down to it any new deal for Walcott is going to mean an increase in salary, that’s normal, but genuinely I’d like to see Theo earn more money through his performances, not simply because he’s getting a bit older.

He says of his form this season:

This season I think I need to get in among the goals a bit more maybe  – I only have four. But I’m happy if the team’s winning and I’m getting assists for the main man up front. I’m doing my job and you have to be effective going forward. That’s what I’ve been doing so far.

I won’t argue that he has a good connection with Robin van Persie and if there’s any link between Theo’s new contract and Robin’s new contract then I think we should make the most of that. All the same, it’d be nice to see a bit more from Walcott now. Don’t be happy with assists just for the main man, create for other players too. Be happy because we’re winning, by all means, but don’t be satisfied with that alone.

Sometimes you get the sense with him that he’s happy to drift along, that he doesn’t really have the desire or passion to really kick on his career. The most animated we ever really see him is when he’s berating a linesman or complaining that a pass he received wasn’t to perfection after he’s run it out of play. When we talk about Arsenal needing more in the final third in recent games he’s one of the players responsible for our lack of cutting edge. When he’s on song he’s fantastic but he’s yet to find real consistency.

And that’s why, personally, I find it a touch incongruous to see massive wage packets bandied around close to his name. Maybe he can get more elsewhere but isn’t that normal? Any club that wants to take a player from a rival will be prepared to increase salary – and doesn’t just work on a football level either, it’s the same with any other employer – and then we’re left in a situation where we have to match that increase. It means a player is getting a whopping new salary, not because he’s earned it, but because our hand was forced by the mechanics of football and agents.

I’m using this as an example, not to criticise Theo by the way, but to show how the ‘game’, and the relentless desire of players for money, affects the fans. We can bemoan the money in the game as obscene all we like, and often do, but when you look at the bigger picture it’s fans who pay for these increases. As costs go up, so do ticket prices, so do the prices of merchandise, food, drink, and every other associated product available at grounds up and down the country.

When you hear people say we should pay players whatever they want, that we should match the wages at Man City or elsewhere, you wonder if they’ve even stopped for a second to consider how that will affect their season ticket, the cost of their membership, if it’ll price them and their kids out of the game.

Now, I’ve long suggested that Arsenal’s wage bill has caused us problems. Not because we don’t pay enough but because we pay some players too much. Arsene Wenger wanted relative harmony in the squad, which I understand to an extent, but that’s what made it so tough to move on players like Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia etc. Their wages, harmonised at Arsenal, were too high for other clubs to match. Hence loan deals, or no deals in some cases.

The bottom line is there is a pecking order in football clubs. Some players are worth more than others. Some players should earn substantially more than their counterparts and it’s up those lower down to prove that they’re worth more money. You should have to earn it, not get it simply because that’s the policy. It’d be reasonable to say that for some players it bred complacency and a feeling they’d already made it. And that was reflected in performances.

So as important as Theo might be – and I still think he’s got a lot to prove despite his high profile – I’d like to see any new contract offered based on his performances and nothing else. I know it’s idealistic and, if other clubs sniff around, unrealistic, but there you go.

In other contract related news, L’Equipe are reporting that Francis Coquelin is set to extend his contract until 2015. Good news if true. He’s a player that’s caught the eye for no other reason than his performances this season and there’s a lot to like about him as a player. To me he looks like the most exciting midfield prospect to come through the ranks since Cesc (not that I’m comparing them as they’re obviously very different kinds of players: update: ok, and Jack too. And Aaron. Doh!) and I hope we can secure what looks to be a very bright future.

Bacary Sagna is on his way back having eschewed further surgery to remove the pins from his broken leg. If his absence has shown us anything it’s that the consistency of his performances are oft overlooked and it’ll be good to have him bombing down that right hand side again.

And seeing as we’re in January and the window is open there’s some transfer tittle-tattle. The Mail is linking us with Lille striker Moussa Sow (if he fluffs a chance can we say ‘He made a right pig’s ear of that one’?), while The Sun suggests our defensive problems might be eased by a move for Swansea’s left back, Neil Taylor. Not too far ahead of a game against Swansea, eh? Funny that. You can make your own minds up as to how much truth you see in those stories.

Finally for today, just a quick word about the reprint of So Paddy Got Up. It’s all coming along nicely and should be available through the site next week. I’ll give you more details on that closer to the time.

Right, that’s yer lot, back tomorrow.

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