After a couple of pretty abject team performances recently, most can appreciate the extra zip that Theo brings to our wing/forward play. Against QPR we had a chronic lack of pace down the flanks for most of the game. The result was that we were toothless in the final third and Giroud cut a lone and frustrated figure in the centre of our attack. All that changed the minute Theo came on.
Pace is a natural attribute that can be honed but not taught. Its importance on the pitch is never more evident than when it is missing. Pace can be in the legs, in the feet or in the head. Henry had it in all three, Cesc and DB had it in the head and feet and didn’t need it in the legs. With Theo it’s mainly (but not exclusively) in the legs, but still he is a potent weapon in Arsenal’s armoury and a player who defenders know will hurt them if they allow him the space to run at them. It should not be forgotten that he is also one of the best finishers in the squad.
I confess to having changed my mind about him over the last 12 months. I recognise that he has improved in certain areas and he is an asset to the team. He’s a player I’d like to keep. He’ll never be a great help defensively but he can be a game changer and those types of player are few and far between.
Some on this site will know that I have an annoying habit of being right when it comes to predicting whether a player is leaving or not. This doesn’t make me clever, just heartlessly cynical as in the majority of cases we have desperately wanted the player to stay.
My reasoning is simple and it involves observation of body language, analysing individual performance in relation to team performance and assessing their worth to us as a player compared to their monetary value and our ability to replace them. Add to that the imminent expiry of a player’s contract and everything is brought into sharp focus.
The one thing I have learned is that almost everything the player says during the period of speculation can be dismissed. Similarly a lot of what club representatives say will be misleading; in fact, believing the opposite will more often bring you closer to the truth because this is the way the transfer game is played.
But if you look back, there will be times when amongst all the verbal jousting, the player (and sometimes the club) will indicate their true feelings but it just gets lost in the melee of media speculation.
Brave Sir Robin actually told us all he wasn’t staying when interviewed after the last game of the season …. we just didn’t want to hear him. Fast forward this clip to 2 minutes – you don’t have to be a genius to read between the lines.
So that brings me back to Theo Walcott, a player who has divided supporters as much as Alex Song – and maybe there is a lesson to be learned from his departure.
Theo has said “I want to play for this club (Arsenal) and hopefully something can happen very soon” – hardly a passionate reassurance to supporters.
Add to this the statement that he wants to play centrally and the inference that this forms part of his conditions to sign a new contract. All of a sudden his words take on a different meaning. Everyone in the business knows you cannot dictate where you will be played to a manager and certainly not to one of the best and most respected in the business. I can only view this as a ploy to justify Theo’s decision should he leave.
My belief that Theo is on his way has been growing steadily and recent events have only reinforced that opinion.
These are the bare facts as I see them (and my selective interpretation of the reports in the media):
- If Theo does not sign by January, we will sell him if a deal can be done or worse, he’ll leave on a free in the summer. We know we are prepared to sell a player to a rival; the only criterion is getting the best price possible. He could have gone last summer but it appears that no club tabled a sensible offer – I wonder why?
- It seems likely that there are now several interested parties including foreign clubs. This is good news as competition should secure us a transfer fee in excess of £6m.
- Theo says it’s not about the money. So did Robin. It is … or at least money is the biggest single factor.
- On the pitch, Theo is doing his best to impress. His tally of 4 goals and one assist so far this season is very good considering the minutes he’s spent on the pitch. As it stands, he is on course to outstrip his stats for last season and that level of performance will attract interest from other clubs.
- Theo has watched teammates like Clichy, Na$ri and Cesc leave and achieve trophies and greater financial reward elsewhere.
- Another factor is that we now have The Ox – the new young face of Arsenal’s and England’s future. He’s already on the front cover of FiFA 13 and is fast replacing Theo as a marketing asset to Arsenal.
- The time when Arsène Wenger allowed himself to feel pressured by a ‘star player’ is over. He dealt ruthlessly with Alex Song. That must have sent out a message to players and their agents and who knows, Sagna may be in for a shock.
- We are looking at potential replacements and have shown interest in Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha as well as Athletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez and a several others not being touted on the internet.
- When in our PL history did we ever re-sign a young first team player in the last year of his contract? I can’t think of a single instance.
The evidence is mounting and Theo’s departure seems inevitable. As I’ve already stated, I’d like him to stay. Not because he’s probably going, but because I really think he can gel with the new set up and we can now get the best out of him playing alongside the likes of Cazorla and Wilshere.
Is he worth more than £75k a week? Probably not when taking into consideration what fellow first team players currently earn. Could we afford to pay him more than £75k a week? Yes, but we choose not to. The question is academic because it is likely that other interested clubs will offer Theo a higher wage than Arsenal can afford.
From what I heard walking away from The Emirates on Saturday, some supporters would prefer he left. Can successive England managers be wrong in preferring Theo to the likes of Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson? I think not, it seems Theo may be appreciated more by the supporters of other teams than our own.
Saturday showed that a player with Theo’s abilities is important to create the supply to the likes of Giroud and last season proved that he can form successful partnerships with other players of high quality.
We lose Gervinho for up to 6 weeks to the ACN from January 2013. We have the Ox and Ramsey who can play on the right but they are better suited to other positions.
If Theo leaves, it is important we make every attempt to bring in another striker who scores goals, can cross the ball and can play wide right – a tall order. Such players are not easy to find and probably won’t come cheap. All we can hope is that we identify and sign a player who can fill the void quickly.
Written by Rasp