It seems like every day there's another article written about Arsenal's interest in David Villa since he is a quality player who would make any football team better. The question that I keep asking myself is how his potential signing would impact Theo Walcott.
There are some known concerns regarding Villa. For one, his age. At 31, Villa's best days are behind him even though in 17 games this season for Barcelona he has five goals. Wenger's history has shown that he prefers bringing in players that are younger, but Villa is an exceptional goalscoring machine even after his broken tibia last year.
Another issue that needs to be discussed is the potential impact of Villa's arrival on Walcott's contract situation. To me this is the trickiest aspect since Walcott has stated that he wants to play striker, and this factors into his signing a new deal (h/t BBC).
Wenger has been playing Walcott as a centre-forward with some great results, like his treble against Newcastle on December 29th. Walcott, 23, looks like he is finally maturing on the pitch. He is able to make use of his considerable talent and realize his potential as a first-choice centre-forward. With talk of Villa coming in, would Walcott feel threatened for his position up front?
To me, Villa and Walcott's greatest asset is their versatility to play in any of three positions up front. I think they would play off each other well with Villa being the more natural goalscorer and Walcott the faster of the two.
In a perfect scenario, Villa would start off as the centre-forward and Walcott on the right wing, and they can interchange throughout the game. Will Walcott be able to realize that even though he could start the game on the wing, he will have the ability to play through the middle during the course of the game?
Walcott would be smart to look at a superstar player like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is thriving on the left wing at Real Madrid and still scoring goals. Ronaldo uses his speed and talent to take advantage of the defense, since they never know which way he'll cut.
If Walcott understands that his speed is his greatest asset and that he can make runs from out wide into the centre of the pitch, then he'll be a dominant player for Arsenal.
I don't doubt that Walcott loves Arsenal and wants to stay. I just hope that he's not insisting on being the No. 1 option as the centre-forward. Since Villa is technically sound and can play all three front positions, this will still allow Walcott to get some starts in the middle.
Arsenal has put the time into Walcott's development and wants him to be the centerpiece of their future along with the other young English players. I also don't believe that all the teams that would pursue Walcott this summer would make him their first-choice centre-forward, even though they would tell him that. This is something that Walcott needs to keep in mind.
Having a talented player like Villa on the team could help Walcott develop his finishing skills and teach him other little techniques that the great players have. Walcott was close with Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, so Villa could help to fill that void.
Also, Walcott's learning to be flexible would give Wenger another option of bringing in Olivier Giroud as a centre-forward with Villa and Walcott both out on the wings, depending on the team Arsenal is facing.
I still can't see Barcelona selling Villa in this January transfer window. But if they do, then Wenger needs to first sit down with Walcott to explain how Villa would be beneficial for Walcott's development. Then he needs to convince Walcott to sign a new deal with the understanding that his versatility and speed will take him further in English football than just playing through the middle.
Villa would be incredible for Arsenal's success...but it comes down to whether Walcott will be a team player or look to leave.