What do you do when someone holds a gun to your head?
“I don’t need an agent, because I will never leave Arsenal”. This quote by Jack Wilshere has become iconic. It almost reaches the heights of Adams’ “Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they’ll remember the name on the back.”
Back to Wilshere and this quote epitomises why I love Jack so much. With devotion and loyalty hard to come by in modern football, this phrase is a rarity in itself. But that’s not the reason I brought it up. Rather, I’m in doubt whether this phrase is applicable to Theo Walcott. We bought him nine years ago (can you believe it?) from Southampton and I still remember his smiling face as he held the shirt and stood next to a no-less smiley Wenger. (Wenger with fewer grey hairs.)
However, I cannot recall Theo saying something along the lines of Jack’s bold words. Has he ever demonstrated this kind of devotion?
The freshest wound he inflicted upon the Arsenal’s faithful still hurts. Theo did it 2.5 years ago, when negotiating a new deal. He knew he was of utmost importance to Arsenal. It was the season when van Persie left for United. We had no Ozil back then, and certainly no Sanchez or Welbeck. Oxlade was swinging in and out of hospital. We were trying to crack the usual enigma of getting into the top four. Cazorla was our only real number 10. Giroud was still adapting, Poldi had already become a professional sub.
Wenger handled the situation in as dignified way as possible under the circumstances. Despite us needing Theo and his goals, the Englishman only appeared from the bench for the first half of the season. But he knew he was in a privileged position. He knew we needed him more than he needed us. Especially after RvP left.
And Theo got his way. He got the 100k per-week salary. He got to play as a striker, though, thankfully, not for long. What really drove me up a wall is that the Englishman even negotiated a one-off £3 million sign-on bonus. At a time we were still paying off the stadium debt.This whole thing hurt a lot at the time. But I, among other Arsenal fans, got on with it. However, I didn’t forget what Theo did, why he did it and at what time he did it. It was like he was holding Arsenal at gunpoint. And we had little choice but to give in.
They say that when the going gets rough, people show their true colours. If you want to know what a certain man is made of, give him the power over you and see what he does. And I don’t like what I’ve seen from Theo.
Fast-forward 2 and a half years and what do we have? That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we have Theo’s contract, which is due to expire in a little over a year. And what does he want? Right again, bigger wages. Only this time he’s not our only winger or goal-scorer. He’s not even a guaranteed starter anymore. Oh how the tables have turned.
Do I sound ironic about the whole situation? Bitter? Disproving? Well that’s because I am all these things right now. And I’m certain I’m not alone: “The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how that progresses politically. Walcott was difficult to convince [last time] 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.”
Have you ever heard Arsene sound as sarcastic about such a delicate matter in public? I know I haven’t. And I understand the man completely. Unlike Theo, Wenger makes the impression of a man truly dedicated to his cause.
Most importantly, however, Theo doesn’t hold the cards anymore. He wants bigger wages? Way I see it, he doesn’t even deserve them. What exactly has he shown after signing the new deal 30 months ago? His form slumped for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, he was in and out of hospital from August till November in 2013-14 and after demonstrating a flash of form in December, did his cruciate knee ligament in January. The injury kept Theo side-lined for a year and, upon returning, he found we were no longer over-reliant on him. In fact, we are no longer reliant on him at all. Despite shipping out Campbell, Poldi and Akpom on loan, Theo still performs the role of the sub. And frankly, our best XI doesn’t include Walcott at the moment.
Is he competing for a place in the team with the Ox? Then it’s a lost battle, because Alex is a much better all-round player. His finishing is still far from perfect, but his overall involvement and output far outweighs his finishing. He takes players on, he terrorises defenders off the ball, he hugs the by-line and helps Bellerin out a great deal.
Then its Alexis Theo tries to displace? Looks that way. Sanchez, much like Walcott, relies on his positioning and finishing when he gets into dangerous areas. Thing is, Alexis is a much better finisher, while also contributing in other areas of the field. No one in their right mind will bench Alexis to field Theo. And look at what Wenger said recently: “When you have the ball in the modern game you have to attack, when you don’t have the ball you have to defend. All the players who can’t do that cannot play.”
He’s basically thrown down the gauntlet to Theo: Either you improve your all-round game, or you don’t play. You want to play, fight, improve, show you are worth starting games. Arsene basically said: “You are no use to us if you don’t play. What talk can there be of higher wages if you don’t contribute on the pitch?” The ball is now firmly in Theo’s court. If he wants to stay, he has to swallow his ego, pick up his already big wages and fight. If he just wants bigger wages, then the door is open for him. Hell, I’ll even hold it for Theo. And I won’t chastise Wenger should Theo leave in the summer. I’ll only do that if no replacement comes in.
I’ll finish it with another Tony Adams quote:
“I will sign every contract Arsenal put in front of me without reading it.”
Not in Theo’s case.