Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Newcastle preview + Walcott’s contract situation takes a turn

A trip to Newcastle today to try and get three more points on the board before we go into the Interlull.

On paper it’s one of those we should win: we’re in great form with five wins in a row (as well as five Premier League wins in a row), while our hosts have won just one of their last 6 and have an injury crisis that is leaving them very short for today’s game. However, Monaco was, on paper, a game we should win so we can’t take anything for granted.

We might see a couple of changes to the team today after the midweek exertions with Alexis Sanchez giving the manager some pause for thought. He’s scored just once in his last 11 games and Arsene Wenger feels that fatigue is playing a part. The difficulty though is that you want your best team out as much as possible and he’s in it, so there’s something of a conundrum for the manager:

He’s a bit fatigued. Also, because he is in a position where he has scored less, he wants to force his game and then he is more included in physical battles.

And on whether or not he’s tempted to rest him:

I have been for a long time. It’s not that he won’t let me, I will decide that! It’s just that every game now is so important, you always have a hesitation to do it.

It’s interesting to note that Alexis is only third in the number of Premier League minutes played this season with 2162. Santi Cazorla is second with 2218 while Per Mertesacker has played 2430. I suppose it’s the intensity with which the former Barcelona man goes about his business that’s slightly different. Is it possible for him to be slightly more efficient with his play or does that take away from what makes him so great to watch?

We all love when he chases back to recover a ball he’s lost, but perhaps the best thing is not to lose it in the first place. Anyway, I can understand completely why Arsene Wenger is thinking of resting him and I can understand completely why he doesn’t. He’s going through a spell of relatively poor form, but any opposition team that sees him sitting on the bench is going to be quite happy about that.

The other thing is that it becomes easier to rest a player if you have faith in the alternatives, and given that the most likely swap is Walcott then it adds another layer to things as he’s somebody the manager has been quite reluctant to use in recent weeks (and I wonder if the contract news, more on that anon, might make that reluctance greater).

Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Walcott get a start today with Giroud and Welbeck, maybe even Ozil, out left. At the back we could Gabriel, Gibbs, Chambers, but I do wonder how much tinkering he wants to do to a back four that has been pretty solid and consistent lately.

While the midweek game against Monaco was ultimately disappointing because of the aggregate score, it was positive from the point of view of our current momentum. That’s something we’ve got to keep going today against a team that will try hard but should find the gulf in quality too much.

Our European exit means our focus is 100% on matters domestic and that should be apparent in our performance today.

Meanwhile, in the land of Walcott the embassy has gone quiet and things have become political with regard his new contract. The timeline as far as we know, which I’ve laid out here, is:

Nov 2014 – Arsene Wenger says we’re starting to talk to him about a new contract. “We are starting to sit down with him,” he says, but warns, “It is never easy with him.”

March 2015 – The manager sounds sarcastic and not altogether pleased when asked about it, saying, “The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how that progresses politically. He is very quick on the pitch but off the pitch, not always.”

Thursday night (March 19th) – A number of newspapers all run the same story mooting a Walcott move to Liverpool as the mugsmashers grow worried about Raheem Sterling’s future/contract situation. It’s almost as if those papers have been briefed by the same source. Who might that have been?!

Friday March 20thThe London Evening Standard runs a story to say that contract talks are ‘on hold’ until the end of the season with both parties ‘happy’ and ‘relaxed’ by that.

Two plus two is four, right? This is familiar territory, not just with Theo Walcott, but generally speaking from a footballing point of view. We have been here before. Not just us, of course, it’s all part of the game and the negotiating process the world over, but there’s definitely an impasse between the two sides.

The fact is that if a player really wants to stay and if a club really wants to keep him, it’s generally pretty easy to find an agreement. Where it starts to get complicated is if a player thinks he’s worth more than he’s being offered, which probably means a club isn’t convinced he is worthy of such a wage. Then you add the fact said player will have just 12 months left on his deal come the summer and the looming prospect of him leaving on a free the following year adds some urgency to the decision making process.

My feeling on this is that what Theo and his people want is beyond what the club feel he’s worth. The Walcott camp  know that the time left on his contract gives them a strong hand in the process because they can look for the Bosman,  use the threat of that to see if Arsenal will up their offer, or indeed force a sale which will see him sign elsewhere for mighty money because that’s the way it goes these days.

From an Arsenal point of view I suspect we want him to stay but we’re not prepared to make him one of the top earners because of the limitations of his game. They’re probably much more relaxed about things this time around because Walcott leaving wouldn’t be as damaging on the pitch and certainly not to the reputation of the club as it would have been last time around.

Impasse. Who will break first? Will anyone break? Will Arsenal call his bluff? Will Theo see a new club and big transfer fee as a greater assurance of first team football than he’s got right now? It’s an interesting one and it’s all set-up beautifully for a summer of will he/won’t he.

Finally, congrats to Gabriel who gets his first call up for the Brazil national side for their games next week.

Right, we’ll be here later on with a live blog of the Newcastle game, simply check back for a post with all the details or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Until then.

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