With the January transfer window a distant memory, the moneymen at Europe’s top clubs can now focus on contract renewals, tying down star players before it’s time to go shopping again. At Arsenal, top of the list of big decisions is what to do about Theo Walcott.
Come this summer, Walcott will have just 12 months remaining on his current deal. The former Southampton youth player has now been at Arsenal for almost nine-and-a-half-years.
That statistic in itself takes some digesting, but what though, of his current circumstances? Does he warrant the extension?
Despite having been on the Gunners roster for the best part of a decade, he has only just turned 26. This means the England man should be looking to sign the biggest deal of his career.
His bargaining position, however, has been severely weakened by susceptibility to injuries, most noticeably his recent ten-month absence. The lay-off, due to cruciate ligament damage, saw him miss last season’s FA Cup final win, the World Cup and half of the current campaign.
Since his return in January he has scored three times and has at least demonstrated he still possesses his trademark blistering pace.
The injury though is not an isolated incident and the player’s apparent fragility means Arsenal haven’t always experienced value for money since he last put pen to paper, back in January 2013.
Wind the clock back to that period and Walcott was in arguably his most consistent patch of form. He was deployed as a striker for much of that season. Some would say in order to help convince him to re-sign. He netted 21 in 43 appearances during the 2012-13 campaign.
In general, though, he has failed to replicate that form at any other time in his Arsenal career. It seems Walcott can be devastating, but all too infrequently. This lack of consistency is something he will need to address over the remaining games this term, if he is to warrant a bumper renewal.
Consistency, in fact, has been the overall downfall of his club recently. Arsene Wenger will again be under pressure to strengthen so that the north London outfit can improve on their recent Champions League form and mount a serious challenge for a domestic league title.
Recent summers have seen big-name arrivals and intentions of any similar signings may well reduce the likelihood of a new Walcott deal with the club looking to free up revenue.
Key to the decision will be if whether Wenger believes the forward is of sufficient calibre to continue to contest for a place at the Emirates Stadium.
With regards to his preferred position as a centre-forward, he faces competition from the in form Olivier Giroud plus Danny Welbeck, who offers less pace but a hard working and more robust option.
For the wide attacking berths, he is surely behind Alexis Sanchez in the pecking order, leaving him fighting for a place with a host of other candidates, notably Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who can rival him for pace but is a younger alternative.
Walcott may well have excelled as the main man in the Arsenal attack once upon a time but now it seems they could have better, more reliable options.