September 22, 2012
You can usually tell the really big stories to come out of Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press briefings – they’re generally the ones that don’t get featured on the official website.
‘Hey Arsenal.com! Is it true Arsene Wenger hinted he might have to sell Theo Walcott in January or worse allow him to leave on a free transfer in the summer?’
‘I haven’t heard anything about that. But did you know Andrei Arshavin answered some fans’ questions on Twitter yesterday? Yeah! Did you know he doesn’t own a horse? Crazy!’
I can understand why they might want to sweep this Theo business under the carpet. It’s in danger of turning into yet another unedifying and embarrassing contract saga for the club and right now the outcome doesn’t look especially bright.
Wenger was asked yesterday about the fact that since the start of his contract dispute and since Theo was allowed to enter the final year of his deal without either getting shipped out or signing a new one he hasn’t been picked to start for the club. And Wenger wasn’t exactly denying that the contract issue was the reason:
I haven’t picked him, it’s true, and it’s quite a good question. I still hope to sign him and the next two months will be vital because, after that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is.
Let’s hope we can find a solution in the next two months but the fact he doesn’t play regularly at the moment is right, but it’s not necessarily linked with his contract situation.
It’s not necessarily linked with his contract situation but you do get the impression that AW is attempting to make a point to the player through his team selections. He’s essentially telling him you can demand as much money as you want but frankly you’re not irreplaceable. We like you and we want you to stay but not at any cost.
It sounds like a pretty strong stance to take but that’s overlooking the fact that with less than a year of his deal to run Theo can simply call Wenger’s bluff and walk away next summer potentially pocketing the payday of his life as any potential suitors reward the lack of transfer fee with a big chunky signing on fee instead.
So it’s a high risk game that we’re playing. Either Theo accepts that he’s not worth the kind of money that he’s demanding and signs the deal that’s on the table, or he accepts that he’s not worth the kind of money that he’s demanding and scuttles off to a club that’s prepared to pay him it regardless.
I suppose it all comes down to how much he loves the club and wants to be a part of the exciting squad that the boss has been quietly putting together. And also what his options are elsewhere. We know that he was a Liverpool fan as a boy and Brendan Rodgers is said to be keen to make a bid but right now would that move really be seen as a step up in Theo’s career? City and Chelsea are the other names mentioned and both would surely give him the money that he wanted even if it’s questionable where he’d fit into those squads.
Worryingly from a financial point of view, Le Boss seemed to suggest that we could just see Walcott away on a free:
It will depend on the needs of the team and the club. We can afford to go to the end (of the contract) if needed.
He’s framed that as if should we go to the end of the contract it’s the club’s decision. Unfortunately it’s not. It’s the player’s. If he decides to sit this season out with the odd subs appearance, biding his time until he can speak to other clubs there’s really nothing we can do about it. We can pretend it was all part of the plan but really I’m not sure anyone believes that’s in the club’s interest. If we weren’t prepared to sacrifice a big transfer fee in order to get another year out of Van Persie then I highly doubt we’d adopt that strategy for Walcott.
The other main talking point in yesterday’s presser was of course the return of the Jack and while some of us are rightly concerned what long term effect his injuries will have had on his abilities it was good to hear that Arsene doesn’t share those concerns. He was asked if it was possible that Wilshere can come back as strong as he was:
It is not possible, it is certain.
He will be a better player because if you have this kind of injury at the age of 20 you will take off again and move forward normally. If you have the injury after the age of 25 it is different. At his age it is no problem.
As we’ve talked about this week, one of the comparisons for Arsenal fans is the case of Eduardo who clearly came back less of a player after his injury. AW was quick to remind us of the differences there:
Eduardo had limitation of his ankle. Jack has no limitation of his ankle it was just a fracture. Eduardo had a rupture of his ligaments and in construction they had to tie his ankle up so once you lose your flexibility of your ankle you are, of course, not the same player. That is not the case for Jack.
It’s difficult to predict [how long he needs to find his best form]. You want people to be patient. After three months of competition for sure he would be back. It takes some while to find the little burst again.
I think that’s the first time we’ve heard anyone really say what we all knew about Eduardo. That there was just no coming back from that vicious assault at Birmingham. Yes, he played again but it wasn’t the same Eduardo. I’m glad that the prognosis for Jack seems so much more positive but we’ll only know for sure in a few months’ time.
On the timescale of his comeback it was mentioned that he’d start off by playing a couple of U-21 games and also that he would need ten days full training before that happened. That would put him in line for an appearance in the reserve game against West Brom on the 1st October and then potentially the next one a week later at home to Reading. If he comes through those two well it opens up the possibility of a slightly earlier return to the first team squad, perhaps after the next international break at Norwich on the 20th. Keep everything crossed.
Right. That’s it for today. There’ll be a match preview up tomorrow ahead of the big one. Have a good Saturday.
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