Liverpool are in rather desperate need of attacking reinforcements come the January transfer window to boost their Premier League hopes, and one of the options open to manager Brendan Rodgers seems to be that of Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.
The rumour of Walcott's transfer to Liverpool has been a long-running one, dating back to when he was still at Southampton even, but the stories have intensified in recent weeks.
The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Independent and Mirror Football have all gone with variations of the deal from the forward being Rodgers' first choice, to the manager being advised not to buy him even though he is a target.
Whether he is the eventual man Rodgers wants or not will be shown in the eight weeks or so ahead—or even if he is the man Rodgers wants, but is unable to get him.
Here, though, are five reasons why the deal is a viable option for all parties concerned.
It is unlikely that this rumour would have come about so frequently or strongly right now if Theo Walcott had a nice, big, long-term contract signed to his name.
He doesn't though, and his present one expires in the summer.
According to various media sources there are two factors to Walcott not having signed a new deal at present: the fact that he is not getting regular game time as a centre forward, and his wishes to be handed a bigger salary than has been offered.
If Walcott allows his contract to run down, he would be free to speak to other clubs in the new year with a view to signing a Bosman free transfer in the summer with a foreign-based club. Even if he moved to another English side, Arsenal would still only receive a fee as set by a tribunal.
It is entirely possible, therefore, that Arsene Wenger takes the view that if his player is not willing to sign up, then he should be sold to at least bring in some funds which can be spent on a replacement—not dissimilar to the move which saw Robin van Persie move to Manchester United in the summer.
While that transfer went ahead for around £27 million, Walcott's value at this point is said to be around the £8 million mark.
Luis Suarez is the Premier League's (joint) top goalscorer this season, but at times he's doing it all by himself for Liverpool.
With Fabio Borini injured, the Reds have minimal firepower to rely on in the final third. As Brendan Rodgers plays with three forwards in most games, he needs at least four attackers who can be regularly called upon to produce quality at the end of Liverpool's impressive build-up play.
Raheem Sterling has performed admirably but is still a 17-year-old rookie. Not everything he tries is going to come off and he will need a rest at some point.
Other than that, Stewart Downing and Joe Cole—totalling 90 England caps and about £170,000 per week wages between them—are so far out of favour, form and confidence that Liverpool have resorted to playing a left-back ahead of them in recent weeks.
Theo Walcott can play right across the front three for Liverpool.
He wants to play through the centre, sure, but the point is not that his name is written down in the middle of the paper when the team sheet is pinned to the board, but where his runs during the game take him.
Playing from either flank—but perhaps preferably the left—Walcott would have ample opportunity, and requirement even, to make his darts central and right up top, alongside and beyond the last defender when Suarez makes his runs down the channels or drops deep to link up play.
Walcott is also more than capable of playing as an out-and-out striker, either flanked by two wider players (such as when Suarez is suspended, for example) or as part of a pair.
Rodgers has shown he will go with two up top when the time is right and a Suarez-Walcott combination certainly has plenty of potential to cause problems for defenders.
Having let go of Andy Carroll (loan), Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy in the summer, Liverpool were certainly in need of attacking reinforcements long before now.
Fabio Borini came in, but he turned out to be the only senior forward who did so.
Samed Yesil arrived from Bayer Leverkusen, but can be counted as a direct replacement for outgoing youngster Nathan Eccleston.
Brendan Rodgers certainly targeted a number of other forwards to join the group, but for a variety of reasons they did not go ahead—Daniel Sturridge because he did not wish to leave Chelsea only on loan, and Clint Dempsey because the Reds' owners seemingly refused the price tag for a player of 29 years of age.
What the actual circumstances surrounding the deal were are perhaps difficult to predict, but the case of Theo Walcott is far removed from Dempsey's.
Walcott is only 23 years old, has a "normal" market value of probably around the £15-18 million range and has his best years ahead of him.
Signing him for only around half of that, then, implies an immediate potential profit on the relative value of a player once he signs a long term deal for the club. Liverpool could technically sell him again if they desired in a year or 18 months and make a 100 percent profit, at a minimum.
Should he excel in the team and suddenly be in huge demand in two or three years' time, Walcott could easily fetch £20-25 million and still be in the prime of his career at around 26 years of age.
Not that this should be the primary reason for signing a player, but anybody who ignores the sums at this stage in the club's re-development is missing the point entirely.
Wages-wise, Walcott should not be an issue either. Sure, he wants big money—but why shouldn't he? Average players in the league are frequently handed contracts worth £50, 60 or 70,000 per week so teams should expect those who prove their worth to ask for even higher salaries.
Worst case scenario, Walcott wants £100,000 and the No. 10 shirt.
It seems Liverpool have a need to offload themselves of those two particular burdens on the club at the moment in any case, so aside from the transfer outlay there would be little expenditure needed on the part of the owners and a vast improvement in quality to the playing staff would be gained.
So the team needs players in an area Walcott plays in, the player himself could well be moving on in January and price-wise he meets the criteria.
Can he actually fit into the Liverpool team?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Question marks over Walcott's consistency and reliability are warranted, there is no doubt. But there are two issues to consider. One is that he has been used over the past few seasons—when this reputation has been gained—as a winger.
Of all the roles Walcott can be asked to play, it is clear he has not developed as a winger and his future improvement is clearly by now dependent on figuring out what his best role is.
The second issue is that he has been in and out of the team this season, possibly on account of the contract situation which remains ongoing.
Walcott has been educated, in terms of his football game, at Arsenal where for several seasons they have been capable of producing some of the finest passing build-up play that the league has witnessed.
As such, Walcott has not been merely sprinting for all he's worth down the flank for five years but learning to adopt a steady, methodical, passing game in the final third—until the moment is right to use his pace and acceleration to exploit a space behind the defence or try to deliver a cross.
Liverpool's game plan of this season is clearly defined and structured, at least until they reach the penalty area, and Walcott would have no trouble fitting in to this style of play.
He does, of course, have the blinding pace which is one of his biggest strengths and which would certainly lend itself to that important moment of moving from build-up to actually attacking the goal.
Not only has Walcott shown an improvement in his finishing this season, but much of his best work comes from being instinctive and reactionary to a situation, not dissimilar to Luis Suarez. The two could feasibly operate on a very good level together.
This is the big issue at the heart of the matter: Liverpool need goals, and Theo Walcott can supply them.
From 32 starts in the league last season the Arsenal man scored eight times, once every 343 minutes.
Whether to make a point, the natural progression of his game or because he is playing a different role at times, this season he has brought that up to four goals from just five league starts—a goal every 149 minutes.
Wenger continues to use him more often as a sub though. He has come on as sub seven times in the league so far.
Walcott's chance conversion rate this season stands at a staggering 40 percent, having taken just 10 shots in the league to date to net his four goals.
Consistency in this area will be important as Walcott goes on, regardless of which side he is playing for, and though he's not likely to uphold anything like a 40 percent conversion rate over the course of a season he can certainly reach double figures with ease.
Played in the right role from the start, Walcott is probably capable of scoring between 12-15 goals in the league—making him an ideal fit in almost every respect for Liverpool right now.
stats from EPLindex.com