Theo Walcott: Does the Arsenal attacker have an Emirates future?
As Arsenal attacker Theo Walcott turns 26, Gunners fans may be left wondering just what the star’s birthday wish will be when he blows out his candles, as speculation about his commitment to the cause mounts yet again.
It’s a case of deja vu for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger (9/2 with Coral to finish outside the top four), after the north London club last became embroiled in a lengthy contract saga with wingman Walcott in 2013.
That sideshow ended favourably for the Emirates outfit, with England international Walcott penning a new deal. However, that contract expires next summer and the situation has changed somewhat.
The ball should certainly be in Arsenal’s court this time, with birthday boy Walcott only returning from a long injury lay-off in October, but Wenger seems to believe negotiations with the versatile forward will be far from smooth sailing.
The French tactician addressed the issue in a light-hearted manner, stating: “The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how that progresses politically.
“Walcott was difficult to convince and that is why it took us much time. We started very early with him but it was slow progress. He is very quick on the pitch but off the pitch, not always.
“I want him to stay and be a regular player and fight for his place,” added the Gunners coach.
Would that really be the best course of action for both club and player this time? Or should they part ways for the greater good?
After being propelled into the limelight by former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson back in 2006, Walcott’s premature World Cup inclusion, and switch from Southampton to Arsenal, hinted at great things.
So far, the fleet-footed Three Lions forward has promised far more than he has delivered for both club and country, and may need to move on to iron out his inconsistencies.
Arsenal are arguably overstocked in attacking midfield, where Walcott finds himself behind the likes of effective Alexis Sanchez and fellow Saints academy star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for selection.
While, in his preferred position up top, the Gunners will almost certainly be looking to upgrade in summer, despite having Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck at their disposal.
So, there appears to be no room at the inn for speedster Walcott, who has made just 12 appearances across all competitions this campaign for Arsenal, and this could threaten his Three Lions future.
Roy Hodgson has plenty of new Young Lions to blood, with Harry Kane, Jordan Ibe and Saido Berahino, who are no slouches in the pace department, just some of the starlets lighting up the Premier League.
Should he not wish to lose his place in the pecking order, an Emirates exit could be beneficial this time. A switch back to boyhood club Southampton should now be more appealing for Walcott, who could shine again under Ronald Koeman’s wing.
In a familiar atmosphere, and as a returning hero of sorts, Walcott would flourish. Alternatively, linking up with similarly quick-footed compatriots Raheem Stering and Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool could also prove smart for his international aspirations.
Walcott would surely have plenty of options and willing takers if he chooses to depart, while Arsenal (odds-on at 4/5 to retain the FA Cup) would be wise to reinvest his apparent blockbuster wages into funding rearguard reinforcements.
If he is to seek pastures new, perhaps Walcott should weigh up his options a little quicker this time, however, and save himself a potential season on the sidelines.