With Arsenal in a fight for Champions League football, the Gunners know that victory against Wigan and Newcastle would guarantee a place in Europe’s elite competition for a 16th successive season. But with neighbours Tottenham just one point behind, Arsene Wenger knows that one slip-up could cost his side dearly and back in January, it wasn’t looking so positive for Arsene Wenger.
Just a few weeks into the new year, Arsenal were in 6th place and six points behind 4th. And back then there was another issue for Arsenal fans to worry about too – Theo Walcott. With the Englishman’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, there were questions over whether Walcott would decide to stay at the club. Rumours spread that Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City were all monitoring Walcott’s situation with the club, until on the January 18th, when the speedster agreed to a new three-year deal worth a £100,000-a-week.
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In the next two weeks we will know if Walcott has made a good decision to stay with the club, as we will know for certain who will be playing in the Champions League next season. But where could Theo be if he hadn’t of signed a new contract at the Emirates?
If he had accepted a move to Chelsea, the winger could all but be guaranteed Champions League football next season. He would be fighting for his place more than he is now at Arsenal, but Walcott could be able to say that next season he would be playing for the European champions, with Chelsea and Benfica ready to face each other in the Europa League final on Wednesday. Although he would be cup-tied for the final, it would highlight his new club’s ability to win trophies, something he’s never experienced at Arsenal.
Or what if Walcott had joined Manchester City instead? He would be sure of his team playing in the group stage of the Champions League next season, as well as having the intentions of winning the Premier League. But who could guarantee Walcott’s involvement in the side? After watching fellow Brit Scott Sinclair join the club, Theo has seen how players can be completely left out of Mancini’s first team plans. So he may have been at a club battling for the league, but he may not have done much to help.
The third club linked with Walcott was Liverpool, the team he followed as a child, and fell in love with. But it was clear to see that although the Reds have the ambition to climb back into the top four in Brendan Rodgers’ long-term plans, Liverpool currently don’t share the same realistic targets as any of Walcott’s fellow admirers. And although they would hope that Walcott would be tempted to join the team he supported as a small boy, Liverpool knew that realistically that wouldn’t happen.
But in the end, Walcott ignored in the interest shown in him by both Chelsea and Manchester City, and decided to stay with Arsenal. If the Gunners did miss out on the Champions League, Walcott may well be questioning his decision to stay with his beloved Arsenal. Even if the club do finish in the top four, next season will really determine if Theo really has made the right decision. The 24-year-old is still yet to win a trophy in his career. And as we all know, at the end of a footballer’s career, it’s all about showing the grandchildren your winners’ medals.
Arsenal will need to spend big, bringing in some top quality players if they are to have a chance of winning a trophy next season. Despite Arsenal’s slump away from their title wining best, Arsene Wenger suggested that it would just be for a few years, and that this summer he will finally have money to spend in the transfer window.
But if Wenger doesn’t get his signings right this summer, he could be extending the club’s run to 9 years without a trophy, and could make Walcott, and a few other players, consider their future with the club.
Walcott has shown a lot of passion and faith in Arsenal to stay, but if Wenger and the board don’t repay that faith, then their speedy forward may have made a huge mistake in staying with the club.