Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Arsenal hand all the cards to Walcott as the deadline nears

Morning all,

as I write there are just over 36 hours until the transfer window shuts and as yet there has been little movement in any direction from Arsenal. Henri Lansbury has joined Nottingham Forest but we’re no clearer about the future of any of the players I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog.

More on that anon but after the reports that Theo Walcott had turned down an Arsenal contract, prompting immediate and understandable discussion about his future, reports this morning say that he’s given assurances that he ‘loves the club’ and wants to sign a new deal. There’s also confirmation that his presence on the bench was directly related to said refusal to sign.

Arsenal have apparently made it clear they won’t sell him before tomorrow night’s deadline but will, seemingly, allow him to continue at the club beyond that point based on those assurances. Now, call me cynical but I think that’s a high risk strategy. Maybe I’ve got Theo all wrong, maybe he really does love the club, maybe he’s a man of his word, but this is a footballer we’re talking about it and at the end of the day, as we’ve found out time and time and time again, they will look out for themselves and regardless of what we put on the table for him to sign he and his agents know that a Bosman move will be far more lucrative. There’s talk of a ‘short term arrangement’. Isn’t that just the last 10 months of his contract?

I also wonder why such talks with the manager couldn’t have taken place long before now. There has been uncertainty over his future since the beginning of last season so why is it that two days before the deadline closes it’s taking the intervention of the manager to make some progress, if you can call it that? It smacks of desperation and once again a week in which we had important business to do has been dominated by a player who has been essentially holding us over a barrel.

And look, that’s what players do, we know that. We know how they operate and how agents operate and yet it looks like we’re running around trying to sort out a mess that should have been dealt with long before now. And the solution, such as it is, is hardly one to be proud of. As I said, Theo could be true to his word and sign a new deal, but allowing a situation where he can delay and prevaricate until such time as he can open discussions with any club he wants is not going to instill any faith in those tasked with looking after player contracts and renegotiations. In short, this is our mess borne out of our seemingly endless vacillations.

The reality might be more simple, that even if Theo wants to go, or that if Arsenal want to cash in, it’s too late in the day for it to happen or there isn’t sufficient interest on either side. There may not be any clubs interested, although The Telegraph says Liverpool continue to sniff around, while Arsenal may have nobody to move him on to. Which again just highlights how shoddily this situation has been handled.

Reading around some papers this morning and Walcott is being painted as a good guy who has been professional and not agitated like van Persie or Song, but isn’t it a sad indictment of the game that a player who has simply done what he’s paid to do should be lauded for such behaviour? You’ve turned up for training and so on? Good man. And that’s not a slight on Walcott, it’s just another example of how footballers these days have far too much power and behave like cunts to get what they want.

Here we are with the season underway having to take the word of a player that he’ll sign a new contract when he hasn’t been willing to do that before now, and when he and his people have been happy to play the waiting game with Arsenal. It’s a huge gamble, and when it comes to gambling we know how that often turns out for Arsene. I hope that, for once, the faith and trust he’s put in a player that he’s turned into a Premier League star and an England international isn’t misplaced.

We should get further clarification from him today as his pre Liverpool press conference takes place today instead of Friday. You can make your own assumptions as to why that might be. The Champions League draw takes place in Monaco this evening but it’s not something he usually attends, it’s a club official who represents us (and even that could be interesting if Gazidis is there at a time when there’s potential transfer business to be done). Perhaps we’re planning a busy day on Friday, who knows? Arsene and Ivan were at Underhill last night to watch the club’s youth beat Marseille 3-0 in the NextGen series.

Anyway, we’ll see what he says about potential business in and out as well as hearing in more detail about Theo’s situation. What would be nice is if someone would ask him why it is we’re allowing situations like this to develop and why it is we’re having to fire-fight when we ought to be concentrating on finalising our squad for the new season. There have been many positives from the opening two games of the season, but equally, and accepting the fact that new players in attacking positions might need some time to click, there have been clear indications that this is a squad that needs strengthening if it really wants to compete for the title this season.

As Gunnerblog points out this morning, at this stage last summer we’d agreed a fee for Santos, Park had had a medical and the Mertesacker deal was in progress. This time around there doesn’t seem to be much happening. Now, it’s fair enough to say we don’t need to do the same amount of business as we did last year. It seems more important to move out some of the players who contribute little or nothing to the team, but once again we go into the final stages of a transfer window counting the money we’ve made rather than the new players we’ve brought in.

I like the signings of Cazorla, Podoslki and Giroud and I like the way we did them, but I think we need a couple more to be really competitive in all competitions this season. There’s still time, of course, but if nobody arrives and if the club ends up in further profit due to pre window departures, then every bad result, every poor performance, is going to be more difficult to cope with.

Last week Arsene said quite explicitly that he’s still ‘in the market’ and no doubt we’ll hear the usual about the right player for the right price. There’s also very pressing need to move players on to make space in the squad, so I’m going to put my optimistic transfer hat on (it’s a bit squashed) and hope that departures mean arrivals and arrivals will change a good squad to a very good squad before we head for Anfield on Sunday.

Till tomorrow.

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