Yesterday evening, as The Times and The Telegraph both ran with stories about how Theo’s representatives had rejected Arsenal’s latest contract offer thought to be in the region of £75,000 per week, the Twittersphere went into Arsenal meltdown. As the news slowly filtered out, everybody had their say; some more vociferous than others.
Theo is, according to reports, holding out for nearly £100,000 per week which will bring him on par with some of his fellow England internationals. If this is true, then Arsenal Football Club potentially have one of the biggest decisions of this transfer window with regards to the young Englishman.
I remember a couple of weeks back having a conversation with a fellow gooner (in the real world no less!) about how footballers use their weekly wages as a symbol of their own status in football. It is true that they can all buy whatever car or whatever house they want and so there is no way of distinguishing who is higher up on the proverbial football food chain. So instead, particularly at international level, footballers use their weekly wage as a comparator. Now, I have no real cold hard evidence to back up this line of thought, but from what I have learnt about footballers in the last three or four years precludes me to believing that this could actually be true.
I’ve heard many journalists that are close to Arsenal (e.g. John Cross) talk about how Theo loves the club, how he wants to sign and how many believe the deal can be done with no fuss. However here we are with three days to go and no signing from our nippy little winger. Koscienly and Vermaelen have both shown in the last year that signing a new deal can be done with minimal fuss, so why now, are we seeing the Walcott saga drag out? Perhaps it is in fact that Theo sees weekly wages as the litmus test for his status in Arsenal and football in general? Perhaps he feels that with van Persie gone he is now one of the biggest players at the club and so deserves a pay packet to match? I have no idea, but the general behaviour of 95% of footballers in today’s game when it comes to contracts has completely eroded my faith that there are still players that truly ‘love’ the club. How can Walcott if he is haggling over a figure that really will has little impact on his life overall. He’s already a millionaire. Footballers don’t ‘love’ clubs any more. If he ‘loved’ the club like I do, then he wouldn’t have an agent at all and would sign the first deal put in front of him.
Having said all of the above, sometimes it does take two to tango, and I can’t really look at Theo’s situation and assume that it is the dollar signs in the eyes of Mr Walcott and his representatives. Perhaps the club have been acting a bit blasé over the whole situation. Perhaps Theo is wanting to be taken a little bit more seriously from the club and perhaps they have been more focused on bringing players in (understandably) than getting Walcott tied down to his contract. I don’t know. What I do know however is that this is just one of a string of players who are challenging the clubs policy in relation to wages. I don’t believe for a second that we should be paying £200,000 per week to any player. I don’t even think any player in the world is worth £100,000 per week (£5.2million per annum). But unfortunately football lives in its own bubble which has been hyper inflated by external resources from sugar daddies. Much to Arsenal’s, and my own dismay, we now have to operate in a world where the top players are demanding to take home the top pay and Arsenal’s wage structure model is becoming sadly out dated.
There are some that believe that this particular contract situation we find ourselves in could just be a bit of last minute ‘who blinks first’ game-playing from Walcott and his representatives. If that is the case then perhaps we will see him sign a new deal this week. I hope he does. But it is truly a sorry state of affairs that these games even have to happen. As ScottyDavisAFC said yesterday on Twitter, whilst he has been at the club Walcott has conducted himself magnificently and can be seen as a real role model to players in terms of his off the field attitude. And at times his on the field activity has matched this stellar behaviour. In this regard, should a transfer be forced through, it will be a real shame to see a player go that I believe still has the potential to be a great star at Arsenal. His pace is something that has frightened the best in the world and at times – Chelski at home a couple of seasons ago – he has been unplayable. So should a deal to Manchester City or Liverpool be pushed through it will certainly be a blow to our attacking options. I believe, much like Theo does himself, that he is a centre forward in waiting at Arsenal, but the formation that we currently have does not allow for this transition. Walcott is a player that could thrive in a front two with someone like Giroud to feed from and runs in beyond the back four to latch on to. He has the instinctive finishing ability of a centre forward and his build and pace reminds me very much of Michael Owen at Liverpool. But Arsenal don’t play that way and so we may never see that potential realise.
What I do find interesting about the Liverpool and Manchester City rumours are that both of these sides adopt formations that make me wonder why Theo would want to join them. If he is looking to ply his trade as a centre forward long term, I can’t see how he would get anywhere near Manchester City’s front line. And at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has begun to develop a similar front three formation to Arsenal – at the weekend Suarez was flanked by Sterling on the left and Borini on the right. So where would Walcott fit? Surely not in Suarez’s position? And Borini has just been signed as a big money replacement on that right hand side? So surely that must mean that Walcott would be in the same position as he is in at Arsenal i.e. fighting for that right wing position? To me it is quite interesting to see why there is interest from these two clubs, but I guess if they feel they can get a top notch player at a reduced price, there will always be clubs looking to add to their squad depth.
Well, that’s about it from me today. I can’t really be bothered to do any more speculation on players. I just want to see how this transfer window pans out and then focus on supporting the players still at the club on 1st September.