According to Metro on Friday, Arsenal’s English international Theo Walcott could be one of the answers to AS Monaco’s depth problems. The Ligue 1 joint-leaders are reportedly considering a £34 million (approximately €39.7 million) move for the Gunners’ star wide man.
Monaco’s impressive start to the Ligue 1 season has taken many by surprise. A mammoth spending spree over the summer saw the likes of Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez make the move to the principality. However, Les Monegasques are not thought to be entirely happy with their current squad.
Outside of the starting XI there is little strength in depth. While Claudio Ranieri’s first-choice line-up is arguably one of the best in Europe, that lack of numbers in certain positions has already been exposed at times.
Walcott may have become surplus to requirements at the Emirates Stadium following the signing of German international Mesut Ozil. But in any case, he has been absent through injury since he scored in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Olympique de Marseille at the Stade Velodrome in the Champions League in September.
Since the 24-year-old’s injury, Arsene Wenger’s side have gone from strength to strength and currently top the English Premier League by two points. While Walcott surely remains an important player in the Frenchman’s plans, having signed a new deal in January, selling him for an inflated fee to one of his former sides may appeal to Wenger.
In Monaco, Arsenal have the perfect side to sell to should they choose to cash in on the Englishman.
The side from the principality have made no secret of their ambitions to play in the Champions League next season. They have already assembled a team that appears capable of securing qualification in Le Championnat, but they are also not domestic rivals.
Walcott would add further quality to what is starting to look like a stellar team and would surely be tempted by the possibility of playing alongside the likes of Falcao, Moutinho and Rodriguez. Plus, there is the promise of further investment on star players should ASM qualify for the competition, given how much they have already spent since returning to France’s top flight.
Money is no issue for Monaco, as we saw earlier this year, and strengthening the squad ahead of a likely Champions League campaign makes sense.
That is not to say that Walcott would be viewed as a squad player at the Stade Louis II; he would arguably be a starter. However, it would be unfair on Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Lucas Ocampos to assume that the Arsenal man would walk into the team ahead of them. Both have excelled out wide for Les Monegasques so far this season.
The competition for places that Walcott would likely face from Ferreira Carrasco and Ocampos is no different to what he is up against at Arsenal currently, though. With the World Cup in Brazil on the horizon and the Englishman currently watching his side play well with him from the sidelines, he is not guaranteed a starting role when he returns.
At Monaco, Walcott would be more likely to find himself starting in the run-up to Brazil than at Arsenal. That would no doubt appeal to him should he struggle to impose himself upon the team once returned from injury.
Walcott’s arrival would also be a big boost for Ligue 1 in terms of exposure. David Beckham’s stint in the French capital with PSG illustrated how bringing in a high-profile player can open up a competition to a new audience. Although Walcott is not of the same profile as Beckham was, plenty of English fans would be drawn to following his adventure with Monaco.
The move makes sense for the club, the team and the player, assuming that he finds himself out of favour at Arsenal in the near future. It also makes sense for Wenger and the Gunners, who could recoup a large percentage of the money spent on Ozil without losing any of their current quality.
As long as Monaco continue to stride towards the Champions League, their need to grow as a team increases. While they can cope with their domestic commitments at present, lessened by their Coupe de la Ligue exit to Stade de Reims in midweek, they will have to add depth before they compete in Europe.
The question is, do they need to add depth going forward at present? Eric Abidal’s recent absence through injury illustrated the fragility of Ranieri’s defence. With the French international and Ricardo Carvalho getting no younger, defensive reinforcements are perhaps more of a priority than Walcott.
However, the English international’s versatility in being able to play out wide or in the middle would make him a valuable asset for Monaco. Should Les Monegasques make the move, it is one that might work for all parties.