It’s the same old song from Theo Walcott and Arsenal. The player wants to stay, and the club wants to keep him, but no deal is done, and the Gunners will be in an unfavorable situation if they do not resolve Walcott’s contract dispute quickly.
After Walcott scored a hat-trick to lead a 7-3 victory over Newcastle this past weekend, Sky Sports quoted him saying, “I've always said I wanted to stay and I enjoy playing for this team. Now we will just see what happens.”
The same report quoted manager Arsene Wenger saying, “My desire is to extend his contract. He belongs here and hopefully we can do it."
So, what’s the problem?
One of the key issues rumored to be keeping Walcott from signing a new deal at the Emirates was his desire to play centre-forward (via the Daily Mirror), and this has clearly been resolved. The 23-year-old has featured atop the Gunners’ formation in his last four matches, and he was attacking down the middle when he netted three goals against the Magpies.
The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel offers one explanation and writes, “Walcott has indicated that he wants to stay but feels Arsenal are short-changing him with their current £75,000-per-week offer.” Mokbel also notes, “A deal between £85,000 and £90,000 would satisfy both parties.”
Money is always the problem in contract disputes, and as is often the case, both sides have valid points to make.
Walcott is a prodigious talent who has improved during every year he has spent in North London, and he is currently in fantastic form. At 23 years old, his next long-term deal will take him through the most productive years of his career, and he has every right to fight for as much money as possible in a new contract.
But Arsenal has just made a massive financial commitment in order to lock up several of its other young stars, as the BBC reported, and it cannot just throw money around to solve problems. The club has long been a rare example of fiscal responsibility in the Premier League, and as talented as Walcott is, he is still not worth compromising the way the organization conducts its business.
Still, this does not change the situation Arsenal is currently in when considering its prospects for this season. Walcott is the Gunners’ top goal scorer after putting his name on the scoresheet 14 times in all competitions this season, and if contract talks were to fall through, it would be a significant blow to the team’s campaign.
The club does not have another player who possesses his ability to excel both on the wing and up top, and if it is forced to search for a replacement later in the transfer window, quality players will be scarce and expensive.
If Arsenal wishes to remain a top-four club this season, it will need Walcott or a player of similar caliber. The Gunners would be wise to cough up a few thousand extra pounds per week on Walcott’s deal, as this will likely save the team money due to how much it will have to overpay for a new attacker in January if they let him leave.
Currently, the prospects of Walcott remaining with the Gunners appear promising. But if a pen does not touch paper by the middle of the month, the team’s supporters should start to worry.