Theo has spoken up about his contract situation and as expected it has generated quite an animated buzz in Goonerland. He's moved to squash speculations that his over-the-top demands for an improved package is the reason his contract extension has not happened yet.
"That speculation on the money side of it has never been me. That's not me. I'm not the sort of person who's influenced by money. I always make my decisions based on football and only football..."The LP on which that song was recorded is worn out and all scratched up and the needle gets stuck in a groove all the time. It will keep repeating "not about money" if someone doesn't lift the pin. We've heard it over and over and over again. It is a tired tune.
But I'm willing to give Theo the benefit of the doubt today for the sake of argument. Let's face it, he really has handled the whole contract saga thing with dignity since it started. Not once has he taken to the media to denigrate the club's hierarchy, his team mates or his manager as some chose to do. He really has done nothing to suggest that he wants to force a move away from the club. For this I'm willing to give the charming, young Theo Walcott the benefit of the doubt.
I wasn't surprised to see Theo grant the interview he did yesterday because Wenger had gone public a few days ago and issued what seemed like an ultimatum suggesting that Theo had two months to make up his mind about extending his contract or the club will likely sell him in January. A day later Soccernet published another story titled "Wenger focused on star generation" where he spoke glowingly about the generation of stars he's currently building at Arsenal who will be capable of matching the very best in the Premier League. He named every young player in the side currently except for Theo Walcott.
"We have a generation of players who are similar to style of the Spanish national team. Wilshere, Chamberlain and Gibbs are all in that category. We also have some young players coming through...We have several options at centre-back and even more in midfield where Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin...."That second story went a long way in strengthening my belief that come January Theo is a goner. Theo's interview in the same medium was really about stating his own side of the story. In his opinion and that of his handlers/advisers, the club's propaganda needed to be matched but I think it was a mammoth public relations disaster. In attempting to squash speculations that he was holding out for more money than the club is willing to give he had to tell what exactly was causing his unwillingness to sign and he said,
"Thierry joined the club when he was 22 and I want to become an Arsenal legend like him, playing up front as well, which is a big factor for me. I've played on the right wing and had the opportunity to play up front a bit more so I think it's about time."He started that statement fantastically well and killed any empathy that may have been forthcoming with that last bit, "...so I think it's about time."
I'm not about to start on arguing for the suitability or otherwise of Theo Walcott as a center-forward basically because the only person whose assessment really matters is Arsene Wenger. If Theo's reason for refusing to extend his contract is really centered around his desire to evolve into a center forward then I expect he should have sat down with his manager to discuss this which I expect would have already happened and he did not like the outcome. So he chose to go public; is the idea to force Wenger's hand? Play me down the middle or I will move on!
"I'll just wait for the club to get back to us now and go from there. It's one of those things that happens in the game. If it comes to it, if the club had to sell me, I'd be disappointed but, like I said, hopefully something can be sorted."Should Walcott be allowed to dictate the role he plays in the team? I think not. Every standard employment contract usually contains the clause that despite the role for which one has been hired, the company reserves the right to move one to perform other functions depending on the immediate needs of the company. Is Theo's contract different? I accept that there are players in the game who are in a position to make demands like this but every single one of them earned the right. Is Theo there yet? Has he earned the right to make such demands? I think not.
Should Wenger pander to his whims and play him up front now he has gone public with his demands, what kind of precedent will he be setting for the other players? That you can hold the club to ransome when it so suits you and the club will bend over? That is a bad and unhealthy precedent to set. Yielding to him will mean one of the other forwards will fall behind in the pecking order in the center-forward position or be made to play out of position in some other role. All for Theo Who?
For the sake of argument, let's assume Wenger gives in and chooses one game in the coming weeks to give him a run-out as a center-forward. The position he has put himself in at the moment, that will become judgement day for him. His every touch will be judged on the basis of that one game and if he fails, he will be buried by the media and the fans. It is unlikely that he will ever regain confidence enough to make it as a striker afterwards.
Is it even possible that any of the big clubs that are rumoured to have him on their radar will buy him right now and play him as a center-forward when he has not proved himself in that position? I think not.
You've not done yourself any favours by going public Theo. You should have kept quiet.
It's a standoff situation presently and judging by Wenger's no-nonsense attitude these days, Theo will blink first or Wenger will make good his subtle threat and sell him off in January. Something tells me that if not for the wrong message it would have sent after selling Song and RVP, Theo would have been on the train that left in the summer transfer window. He has held out for too long. Right now that both sides have stated their cases in the court of public opinion, everyone is prepared for that eventuality if it comes to pass and there won't be the kind of backlash on the club that would have happened if he was sold in the summer too.
Personally, I would be sorry to see you go but you really haven't proved to be indispensable, Theo.
The Capital One cup, formerly known as the Carling Cup takes center stage as we take on Coventry tomorrow evening. Michael Cox and Andy Turner, over at Arsenal.com have done a magnificent Scouting Report on the game and you can read it here. It provides a background on our opponent and is well worth a read.
I'm off now and just to let you know, your thoughts on the Walcott situation will be appreciated so tell us below. Holla!
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