Theo Walcott’s contract situation at Arsenal appears more important than just a single player’s future. It will send a crucial message to the club’s fans.
The story of this transfer window so far and no doubt the coming summer too if it isn’t sorted out soon is Theo Walcott’s contract – or indeed lack of a new one.
Much like last season’s Robin van Persie saga – and that of Samir Nasri previously – the story remains the same: top Arsenal player’s contract is close to expiring, player is reluctant to sign on the dotted line.
Walcott’s contribution to Arsenal this season is undeniable. Despite a less than an inspired start to the campaign (during which Walcott was often inexplicably omitted from matchday squads) the Gunners now sit sixth in table.
The 23 year-old scored a hat trick in the side’s recent 7-3 win over Newcastle and has provided a fair few goals adding to an impressive goal difference of plus eighteen.
Walcott’s initial rejection of a new contract said to be worth £75,000 a week of course put several Premier League squads such as Liverpool and Chelsea on red alert – each eager to start yet another Arsenal exodus.
This contract saga had all the hallmarks of the van Persie debacle of last season which dragged on through most of the Gunner’s campaign, throughout Euro 2012, right up until the nth hour when the Dutch international signed for current leaders Manchester United.
Thankfully for Arsene Wenger it is becoming increasingly likely that Theo Walcott will put his name to a new contract and prolong his stay at the club; something that several other fan favourites such as Jack Wilshere already have done this season.
While there is no doubt that this is good news for any Arsenal fan, one has to wonder why Walcott signing a new contract is so crucial to the Gunners’ season.
Walcott has finally got his wish to play as a striker but while he has been prolific in some games, in others he has been silent.
It is not to say that he is without talent but that he lacks consistency – something the Arsenal side desperately need when the race for fourth, or even third place is so tight.
It also wouldn’t hurt to remind the Arsenal faithful how dismissive they were of Walcott not that long ago many claiming that Walcott had yet to fulfil the potential he supposedly had.
Fast forward a season to an Arsenal without goal scoring machine van Persie and the fans sound dramatically different.
Moving beyond the obvious bonuses of keeping your top scorer, one of the bonuses of Walcott signing a new contract is that Arsenal will manage to avoid yet another year of criticism over their transfer policy.
The departures of Alex Song and more noticeably Robin van Persie forced the fans to once again question the nature of Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy; an old issue re-raised from the previous season when after months of speculation, Arsenal sold star players Nasri and Fabregas.
Selling star players is a familiar trap for Arsenal and often a catalyst for other players to leave within a year – something that must damage the morale of the players left.
Avoiding another van Persie style disaster with Walcott would not only strengthen the Gunner’s erratic squad but also morale for the club and supporters.
With big name signings such as David Villa becoming less likely and Wenger enigmatically stating, “We are on the market and if we find the right players, we will do something,” one must assume that Walcott signing a new contract is the Arsenal manger’s top priority.
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