Walcott won’t sign ‘any time soon’, probably not at all

Morning all, I hope wherever you are isn’t as miserable as it is here. It has rained for 24 solid hours now, at least. Bah.

Anyway, football will sustain us and we’ll start this morning with Theo Walcott who has made public his situation once again. He says that there’s little chance of a new Arsenal contract being agreed ‘any time soon’, says money is not the issue and that his desire to play as a striker is the real reason behind the whole thing. In fact, he says it’s ‘about time’ he was given a chance there.

Speaking yesterday, he said:

I’ve played on the right wing and had the opportunity to play up front a bit more so I think it’s about time.

Playing up front is important. It’s one of the main factors for me. I signed as a striker. I’ve learnt my trade out on the wing. Hopefully, I’ll get to play up front in the next few games. It’s frustrating being on bench, but it’s one of those things I have to deal with.

In fairness to him he has always said he’d like to play as a striker but I don’t think this is anything other than a convenient cover for the real problem with his contract, which is, of course money. And we’ll come to in a bit. It’s worth thinking about Walcott as a striker and in Arsenal’s current system he’s just not suited to it at all. If we played with two strikers then I could see it even if it’d take a lot to convince me it’s right, but not as a lone striker. And I think Theo, by his own admission, knows he can’t play that particular role, so unless he’s expecting the team to change formation to suit him then he also knows it’s not going to happen.

As for it being ‘about time’ he was given the opportunity to play up front, it sounds rather too much like an ultimatum and I don’t think he’s in any position to do that. If he’d been an outstanding success on the right hand side then, perhaps, you could make a case for it, but while he’s had some fine games out there, he’s hardly done it on a consistent basis. Certainly not enough that Arsene Wenger would be swayed by such a public ‘suggestion’ from one of his own players.

Plus, the bottom line is that Walcott’s situation is such that the manager is using Gervinho, until the Southampton game one of the most erratic players in the squad, as a centre-forward. And when facing the champions he overlooked Walcott to play Aaron Ramsey, a central midfielder, on the right hand side. Until then he’d chosen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain except for the pre-transfer window game against Sunderland on the opening day of the season. If that doesn’t give Walcott an idea of his current standing then I don’t know what will, and going public with declarations about wanting to play up front won’t really fool too many people.

Like any contract, the overriding issue is money. Simple as that. We know it well having gone through countless contract wrangles with players in recent seasons. Mathieu Flamini, for example, left Arsenal saying he didn’t feel the love from the club and it was that which helped him make the decision to leave. Of course it had nothing to do with the massive Bosman fueled salary on offer from AC Milan. Theo says of a new deal at Arsenal:

It’s not going to happen any time soon. That speculation on the money side of it has never been me. That’s not me. I’m not the sort of person who’s influenced by money.

I always make my decisions based on football and only football. Hopefully something can be sorted out. I’ll just wait for the club to get back to us now and go from there

Surely nobody is naive enough to believe that money isn’t the main stumbling block and I’ve got no real problem with that. If he feels he’s being under-appreciated in terms of the wages on offer than that’s his and his agent’s prerogative. Personally, I think £75,000 a week for a young player who still has plenty to prove on the football field is very decent indeed – and let’s not ignore the fact there would be percentage increases, various performance bonuses and other incentives built in to that contract which would make it very healthy indeed.

The key issue though is the fact that he’s into the final 12 months of his contract and he can take full advantage of the Bosman ruling next summer. Although I think he’s been badly advised in recent times – his people’s propensity to walk away from talks with the club has obviously irritated manager and officials alike – I don’t think any agent worth their salt would tell a player to sign a new deal with their current club in these circumstances. When you can get wages + a lovely big signing on fee paid over the course of your deal, why would you ignore that?

We know Theo’s wage demands are above and beyond the £75,000 on offer, but even if Arsenal matched them his agents could simply go to any interested parties and demand parity and more, a much easier thing to do when the player is available on a free. And because of the vagaries of the system and Walcott’s birthday falling in March, we would not be entitled to any development fee. So the likelihood of Walcott signing a new deal with Arsenal is absolutely minimal, in my opinion.

One thing to remember though is that these things work both ways. If Theo really wanted to sign a new deal with Arsenal, and if Arsenal really wanted him to stay, then this would probably all be done and dusted now. For those who would suggest our stance is wrong, the club is often upbraided for giving high wages to players who don’t merit them. We can’t then criticise when they decide a player is worth a certain amount and then stick to it. And as I pointed out earlier, it’s not as if Theo would be earning peanuts when everything is taken into consideration.

It’d also be worth thinking about where Theo Walcott might play as a striker. If Chelsea and Man City are reportedly interested, does he really think he’d get into those sides as a centre-forward? I’m not sure he would. So we’re now in a position where for Walcott to stay at Arsenal we have to give him assurances that he’d play as a striker, as well as increasing the amount of money on offer for his weekly wage. I don’t think either of those things are going to happen and when you take into account what he could earn by leaving on a free I think we’re heading into the final months of Walcott’s time at Arsenal.

In the past players like Sylvain Wiltord and Edu found themselves frozen out as their final seasons progressed, the manager choosing to use players who he knew were there for the longer-term. It looks as if that’s going to happen to Walcott with players being played out of position ahead of him and the potential and development of Oxlade-Chamberlain more important than keeping him happy. But the season is long, Arsene Wenger will no doubt play this down and continue to talk about an extension because he knows we might need him.

And that’s really the outlook we should take. I don’t see any need for outrage because he wants more money than we’re willing to offer him, we’ve been here before with footballers and we’ll be here again. Expediency over the course of the long season is the pragmatic approach, and if Walcott scores a goal or makes a pass that wins a game then great.

In the meantime he’s discovering that Arsenal can cope without him.

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