Arsenal and English forward Theo Walcott have reportedly agreed to terms on a new contract. If true, that's good news for the Gunners, but it can't be the only piece of business the North London club conducts this winter.
Goal.com's Wayne Veysey has the exclusive details on what would reportedly be a four-and-a-half-year contract extension. Arsenal had not announced any deal on the club's official website as of Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.
Walcott and his representatives held a final round of talks, which included manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis, at the club's London Colney training base on Wednesday, where the 23-year-old accepted the offer of a £30,000-a-week pay rise.
Under the new agreement that runs until the summer of 2017, the England international's salary will climb to around £90,000-a-week, which will be bolstered by top-up bonuses and a multi-million pound signing-on fee.
Also reportedly included in the deal are assurances from manager Arsene Wenger that Walcott will play in his preferred central attacking role. The 23-year-old's performances there have been encouraging lately, especially when Walcott hit a hat-trick in the Gunners' 7-3 league victory over Newcastle in late December.
Walcott, who joined Arsenal as a teenager from Southampton in 2006, was in the final year of his contract. Without a new contract, he would be able to leave the club for free in the summer.
According to widespread reports on Wednesday, Walcott would also receive around £3 million as a signing bonus (via The Guardian). The club was expected to announce the deal next week.
As I've written before, re-signing Walcott would be good for Arsenal. That is, not just for playing reasons, but for public-relations purposes as well. The Gunners allowed Robin van Persie to leave for Manchester United in the summer; letting another high-profile star leave the club would have sent a poor message to fans once again.
Walcott's performances of late have shown promise, and for fans, it's nice to see the club spending the money required to keep a promising young talent at the club. At 23, Walcott still has not reached his peak. As he continues to mature, he should have his best years ahead of him.
Also, with the latest controversy over Arsenal ticket prices in mind, it's nice to see the club spending some money. This move, if it happens, would maintain the squad's strength rather than diminish it. Perhaps there is actually a reason Arsenal's ticket prices are so high.
Finally, it also shows that Arsenal might be willing to pay closer to market value for high-profile names. According to The Guardian's report, Arsenal had previously made a "final offer" of £75,000 per week to Walcott. Whether or not you believe Walcott is worth £90,000 per week, that "final offer" was never going to keep him at the Emirates.
Now, though, it appears Arsenal will have a talented young—and English—forward in the squad for years to come. That should be enough to excite most Gooners.
With all that said, this cannot be Arsenal's only move this winter.
Walcott has shown steady improvement, but like the squad as a whole, he has been an inconsistent attacker. Reinforcements are needed if Arsenal are to maintain their challenge for the FA Cup, Champions League and next season's Champions League qualification.
With Walcott reportedly on board, Arsenal and Wenger should now look toward strengthening the squad with new faces. With three weeks left in the transfer window, the club could be set for an interesting January.
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