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Arsenal Going Backwards with Theo Walcott Contract Extension

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Arsenal Going Backwards with Theo Walcott Contract Extension
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According to reports, Arsenal are about to end their aeon-long talks with Theo Walcott by offering the hot-rod winger a new contract worth £25 million over five seasons (via the Daily Mirror).

In truth, it will be a step backwards by the Gunners and is a perfect example of the club's poor transfer record over the last number of years.

Less than six months after Robin van Persie swapped the Emirates Stadium for Old Trafford and Manchester United, and Alex Song became the latest Arsenal player to join Barcelona, the Gunners are set to offer a player less important than either a massive pay deal and contract to keep him at the club.

This is a prime example of how Arsene Wenger has failed in his succession planning over the last decade.

In 2004, when Arsenal won the Premier League after going the entire season unbeaten, a new dawn was heralded at the club. Everyone associated with football looked upon the Gunners and their awesome team. Everything was perfect. The foundations had been set over the previous eight years and now Arsenal were going to dominate football in England like never before.

Except, they didn't.

The following season their trophy was surrendered as Chelsea won their first Premier League title, with Arsenal finishing second.

They did make it to the FA Cup final, though, and won. But it was a facile victory as Manchester United completely outplayed them over the course of 120 minutes before penalties separated the teams.

And from there, the great foundations set the year before dwindled before Arsenal fans' very eyes.

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The year that Theo Walcott signed, 2006, was also the year that a haphazard transfer policy crept into the club.

Prior to this, Le Prof had a knack for picking up rough diamonds and making them shine. The primary reason for this is that Arsenal were one of the first clubs to really use succession planning for future teams.

Succession planning for football, in its most basic meaning, is a process whereby a football club ensures that players are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the team. Through the succession-planning process, youth players of high potential are signed with a view to developing their skills, abilities and tactical acumen to prepare them for a position in the first team.

To cut a long story short, Arsenal have basically lost players who had no ready-made successor and are now paying the price as their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur seem to have picked up the mantle where Wenger dropped it.

Think of all the major players the Gunners have lost since that famous title win in 2004:

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was the first to leave and he was followed by Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Alexandre Song and Robin van Persie to name just the very best players. 

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Who can forget that title win in 2004?
Take all these players and their fees into account, and you quickly come up with the theory that Arsenal have become a selling club more interested in the bottom line than the top of the league.

In most of the above cases, the situation could have been solved by a slackening of the purse strings and offering a better contract to keep the player at the club. If that had been the case, the Gunners would be in a far stronger position today.

For one reason or another, this was not done and ultimately Arsenal paid the price because there was no natural ready-made successor, or apprentice, in reserve.

Now, the Gunners are dealing with a player who is a lesser player than any of the men named above. Except with Walcott, they are willing to break the bank and, according to the Daily Mirror, offer him an astounding £90,000 per week with added bonuses over five seasons, which could net the player a cool £25 million.

This, quite frankly, is pure madness and highlights the Gunners' uncertain recruitment policy. 

There can be little doubt that as far as Arsenal are concerned Walcott has a unique set of attributes. He is incredibly quick and he can finish, sometimes. Other than that, his contribution at the highest level is not enough to warrant being made one of the highest-earning players at the club.

His link-up play is average, his crossing ability is poor, his defensive abilities leave a lot to be desired when he features on the right-hand side of midfield or as a winger—regardless of his work rate—and he often suffers from tunnel vision when on the ball in that he can only see what is directly in front of him.

The point is that Theo Walcott is not normally a key player—except, given the state of the current Arsenal team, he probably is. 

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The shape of things to come if Walcott stays?
Arsene Wenger would be wrong to offer the England international a contract because he is not a player who will ultimately move the club forward. In the lower reaches of the Premier League where defensive, tactical and technical intelligence are negligible, Walcott will probably shine—as he did against Reading and Newcastle recently. 

However, when it comes to playing the big guns in the Premier League and especially in Europe, his speed will be met by battle-hardened defenders who love nothing better than seeing roadrunners into channels where their pace is completely ineffective.

To move the club forward and back to the footing it should be on, Wenger should sell Walcott.

At one stage Liverpool were interested in signing the fleet-footed forward for a rumoured fee of around £10 million (via the Daily Mail). If Arsenal could pocket a fee of a similar amount, they would realistically have £35 million to play with as far as transfer fee and contract are concerned. 

The Daily Mail also reported in October that Wenger's war chest for the January transfer window was the sum of £35 million. Arsenal fans had better be hoping it goes on more than one player and one contract.

If the Gunners could sell Walcott, Wenger could set about rebuilding the team to the level that fans had grown accustomed to. 

The old football saying goes, "Form is temporary and class is permanent."

Wenger should realise that the rough diamond he signed from Southampton in 2006 has not progressed to the levels he had hoped—and that his recent run of 14 goals since September is out of kilter with his previous seven seasons with the Gunners.

Never has a truer phrase been said about Theo Walcott and Arsenal.

 

Statistics provided by www.soccerbase.com and www.premierleague.com.

You can look me up on Twitter @WillieGannon

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