I say this with a heavy heart, but the relationship between Arsenal and Theo Walcott has run its course. It is time for both sides to part ways. Say goodbye. Au revior.
These thoughts have not come suddenly, they have been building up over the last few months. Walcott’s performance last night was the final nail in the coffin. Yes, he was playing out of position, but with just 14 touches of the ball in 54 minutes shows what many have been saying for some time. He plays on the periphery of games
Walcott arrived at Arsenal in January 2006 (alongside Emmanuel Adebayor & Abou Diaby). He was labelled as the next big thing. Just 15 and costing £5million, rising to £12million, later revised to £9.1million, hopes were high. He made his England debut before his Arsenal debut and went to the 2006 World Cup.
Throughout his early Arsenal career, he was heavily criticised by many, but I defended him, he was still a baby in football terms, he would come good.
Walcott has always suffered with confidence. At times he does not realise how good he is. Maybe it is the mental block of having two serious shoulder operations, or the damage done by early criticism, but he rarely seems to have used his pace to beat a player one on one throughout his career.
Confidence seemed to be gaining and, after hitting double figures for goals in consecutive season, he finally broke through as an important first team player in 2012-13 with 21 goals (just 5 less than Gareth Bale who than joined real Madrid for a World Record fee). It looked like Theo Walcott had finally arrived. He was still just 24.
Fast forward 2 years and we are now at a crossroad for Walcott.
18 months of injury meant that Walcott never built on that season, and with 18 months left to run on Walcott’s contract, Arsenal have a decision to make on his future.
Where as in January 2013, Theo Walcott had the power when it comes to negotiations, the tone around the club is very different this time round.
In 2013, Theo Walcott was the star. In the middle of a purple patch of scoring, he was Arsenal’s best player. Having lost Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy & Cesc Fabregas over the previous 18 months, the club could not afford to lose another star, especially on a free transfer.
Walcott could name his price. Arsenal originally offered him a 5 and a half year deal at £75,000 a week. He ended up singing a 2 and a half year at £100,000 a week, seeing him through until 2016.
It seems that his advisor are now pushing for more. With Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both earning around the £140-150,000 a week mark, that is what Walcott’s advisors are aiming for. They still see him as one of the clubs gems. The problem is that is fiction. In reality, Walcott is a player on the wain.
Barely played in the last 18 months, he has struggled to get back in the Arsenal first team since his return. And his performances this year have mirrored that of his England performance last night. On the periphery. How can Walcott demand the same money as Ozil and Sanchez when he is clearly not in their class?
At the moment, he is not even on the same level as the likes of Santi Cazorla & Aaron Ramsey, players who earn a similar amount. He is not even alongside Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain and others, who are on around the £75,000 a week that Walcott was first offered 2 years ago.
Walcott is about to go rapidly downhill. Anyone who has followed football for any amount of time will know that players who rely on pure pace decline quickly in their late 20’s. Michael Owen and Fernando Torres are perfect examples of this. Of course, some players (Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry) add enough to their game that as their pace go’s, they can still operate at a high level, but Theo Walcott has not developed.
So where does this leave Walcott? I imagine Arsenal will offer him a contract. Arsene Wenger is loyal like that. But it will be a contract on Arsenal’s terms. The club will not want to offer him a long term contact on high wages. With his recent injury record, a 4 year deal on £140,000 a week (What Walcott is likely to want) will be crazy to offer. Tying up £30,000,000 over 4 years on player on his way down is just too much.
The best we should be offering Theo Walcott is the same contract as what he bullied us into agreeing in 2013. A 2 and a half year deal, £100,000 a week. That see’s him through to 2017. He will be 28 by then.
Personally, I feel this is even too much for him. It will still make him one of the highest paid players in the squad, whilst not being one of the best players in the squad.
It would be best for all parties if Theo Walcott was moved on. He could get a longer term contract elsewhere, and Arsenal would get a few million for him, which they could then re-invest in someone younger and better. There are plenty of options out there (more on this another day).
Theo Walcott. Your time at Arsenal is up. Arsenal are moving forward. You are moving backwards.
Goodbye Theo Walcott