As the closure of the transfer window trundles ever closer, I thought I'd have a quick look at one sale that might or might not happen. Well, everyone else is doing it, so why not jump on the bandwagon?
For most clubs, one transfer saga would be enough. Not for Arsenal, though! As if Robin van Persie long-protracted departure wasn't enough, we've had the speedier departure of Alex Song, and now there's speculation about Theo Walcott's future.
I've always maintained that Theo would stay. He seems happy enough, which is strange given the undeserved flak he gets sometimes. The guy is match-winner getting played out of position. As a young striker at Newbury, he scored over 100 goals in a season. Yet some Gunners 'fans' claim Theo can't finish!
I admit that Theo lacks the 'football brain' of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Theo has a good attitude and will learn, if he gets the right coaching. The problem is how many wingers have Arsenal developed into better widemen under Arsene Wenger? I can't think of any. All the good wingers were good before they arrived. When they left they weren't much better than they were before they arrived, unless you include Thierry Henry, who ended up playing as a striker. Marc Overmars and Robert Pires didn't improve a lot at Arsenal, although the latter took a while to adjust, as they were already established internationals. Jose Antonio Reyes regressed at Arsenal, but I blame that on overzealous Premier League tackling. Freddie Ljungberg may have improved at Arsenal, but I didn't see enough of him before his arrival to be sure of that. Besides which, Freddie wasn't a traditional winger in the 'hugging the touchline' sense of the word.
So, I'm concluding that Theo's best chance of developing as a player at Arsenal would be to switch to the Thierry Henry role. Why does Wenger say he sees Theo as a striker and then not play him there? It seems like he's setting him up to fail.
How on earth Wenger can experiment with Gervinho as a lone striker is beyond me. The Ivorian is a tricky customer, but rarely looks like finding the net. It must be so frustrating for Theo, waiting in the wings (pun intended!).
If Theo does leave, I will lay a lot of blame firmly at Wenger's door. He's the one constantly playing Theo out of position. The rest of the blame will rest with the unappreciative fans. I guarantee that if we sell Theo to a Premier League rival that decision will haunt us.
Having said that, I'm not advocating we give in to all of Theo's demands. Our negotiating team of Ivan Gazidis, Richard Law and David Miles should give him £80k per week. Surely Theo deserves to get the same salary as new signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski? Our current offer is £75k plus a £5m signing-on fee, apparently. I'd up the signing on fee to around £7m, if necessary.
But then again, if Wenger's planning to only deploy Theo as a winger, it may be time to cash. There's still time to change Theo to a striker. He's still only 23, so probably 4 years away from his peak, lest we forget.
The club have to use these past two summers as a wake-up call. Last season, we were forced into selling Samir Nasri, more or less, has he entered the last year of his contract. Why do we continually let this happen? If the club refuses to be more transparent about these things, they will inevitably attract a lot of the blame.
Why don't negotiations begin when a player has two years left on a current deal? If the player won't sign then, we should start looking at offloading him. If that were the case, we should get more value-for-money for any subsequent sale that takes place, as we'll have more transfer windows to play with when it comes to finding the right deal.
The only other way of doing it, I can do it, would be to have a clause written into contracts, whereby the club can re-sign a player for an extra year when he's entering the last year of his contract. Manchester United did that with Dimitar Berbatov, see this article in the Guardian written back in February.
The club have to learn, as even though this summer was better than the last one (as we actually did some significant buying relatively early), we can't look back fondly on the departure under a cloud of two or three first-teamers. A change would make financial sense, I think, so hopefully our economics graduate of a manager will insist that the same thing doesn't happen again.