Arsene Wenger wise or risky to offer Theo Walcott new contract?
There is always some method in Arsenal (20/1 chances with Coral to win the Premier League) boss Arsene Wenger’s madness, but eyebrows have been raised by plans to offer Gunners winger Theo Walcott a new contract, when his current deal does not expire until 2016.
Having only recently returned from over nine months on the sidelines, due to a cruciate ligament injury, Walcott has made just one appearance in over nine months.
So what could Wenger’s rush be? With just a substitute outing against Burnley under his belt this season, there is hardly going to be a queue around the block for Walcott’s services this January. Not that any would require such a public statement of commitment anyway.
Whilst Walcott made a promising cameo, and could have clocked up a goal and an assist in his brief foray from the bench, if not for Tom Heaton’s heroics and a spot of bad luck, he has done little to earn such a reward.
Arsenal, after all, do not know how well Walcott has truly recovered, if he has lost a yard of pace, or the confidence in his body to go the extra mile in a challenge or footrace.
The long-term effects of such a significant lay-off cannot yet be seen, so a little caution may have been prudent before the Gunners laid their cards on the table. Fernando Torres and Michael Owen are just two of a host of recent examples who waned before their time after injuries took their toll.
Wenger already has a treatment table list longer than his CV, with first-team stars such as Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud out, not to mention regular sick-notes Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.
Speaking about the decision to begin contract talks with Walcott, Wenger said: “We are starting to sit down with him. I think he has one and a half years to go on his contract…it is never an easy job with him, you know.
“Will he be at his peak in the next few years? He should be, yes. He is 25. It is the best years now so hopefully we can profit from that.”
The last time Arsenal and Walcott sat down to discuss terms, a season’s worth of transfer speculation followed, with the England international at one point looking likely to leave the Emirates on a free transfer.
So perhaps Wenger is now wiser, preferring to nip unseemly situations in the bud and sidestep untimely distractions in the future.
The wily coach can also avoid being backed into a corner when negotiating. Indeed, whilst Walcott is recovering, and is yet to make his mark this season, Arsenal are in a strong position. It’s now 10 terms under Wenger’s wing for Southampton academy graduate Walcott, but there is still the sense that the Gunners are yet to see the best of him.
Having lost many a superstar in recent campaigns, nobody could blame Wenger for wanting to tie down his top assets, meaning the somewhat rash nature of this announcement could be good news for the Emirates faithful.
A new deal could also be a ploy from the Frenchman to boost Walcott’s confidence and subsequent form during his return to the team, as Arsenal (7/2 to win a major trophy) have struggled at times this season. A Walcott in full-flight would surely increase the north Londoners’ hopes for a lengthy Champions League run.
If a lucrative new contract for Walcott results in his form being the catalyst for silverware, it will be business well done.