Why it’s time for Arsene Wenger to pay the ransom

Theo Walcott, Arsenal

At several times during the contract saga that both Theo Walcott and Arsenal have found themselves intertwined in during the last couple of months, the same old rebuke to a potential Walcott departure appears to have been wheeled out.

The perpetual focus in some quarters appears to be on the fortunes of Walcott should he leave the Emirates Stadium. Is he really likely to see regular first team football at a Chelsea or a Manchester City. It seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

Liverpool might cave in to his ransom come January and take him to the club that he once supported as a boy. But that’s a step down in competitive terms, surely? Again, there’s not much to argue in that.

But to focus on the potential fate that Walcott might suffer upon leaving North London is missing the point here completely. It doesn’t matter what he might be worth to any other club in this league. Only what he’s worth to Arsenal and at the moment, that’s pretty easy to quantify.

This term, the England winger has already notched up nine goals and seven assists in all competitions – for the entire season last term, that figure lay at 11 goals and 10 assists. Make no mistake about it, Walcott is a huge asset to Arsene Wenger’s side and while he might not constitute the outlet that many once believed he could be, that should take nothing away to his worth to his side.

Against Tottenham, in a performance perhaps fitting of his career so far, Walcott displayed a couple of moments of frustration, as he occasionally failed to bring the ball under control. But the absolute roasting he handed out to both Kyle Naughton and then Jan Vertonghen in the North London derby, played a massive part in catalyzing his side’s 5-2 deconstruction of their rivals.

It was in many ways, vintage Walcott. But so often there seems to be a tendency to focus on the negatives of his game, as opposed to the positives. And most importantly, they’re positives that this Arsenal team simply cannot afford to loose.

The murky backdrop to the Walcott dispute is of course one of financial disagreement. According to The Telegraph, the England international’s current deal of £60,000 a week has ‘only’ been bettered by another £15,000 in the most recent contract offer that Arsenal have laid down on the table. For many, Wenger’s decision to stick to his strict fiscal beliefs and decline to budge on Walcott’s alleged desire for a contract nearer the £100k mark are more than justified.

But as hard as it seems, let’s take the financial morality out of the equation for just one moment. It’s been widely reported that Lukas Podolski was made Arsenal’s biggest earner following his summer move from Cologne, being awarded a contract in the region of £90,000 a week.

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Now past the departed duo of Robin van Persie and Alex Song, you can make an extremely well weighted argument that Walcott was the best performer for the Gunners last season. So out of those who remain, is it really that wrong that Walcott should look to seek financial parity with at least the biggest earners at the football club?

Because if Arsenal won’t give it to him, there are certainly other clubs who will pay him the wage he feels he deserves – and if you look at the current market, many would argue that offering Walcott, say, £90,000 a week isn’t particularly bad business at all. Considering that Manchester City are currently awarding James Milner £85,000 a week, you can see why Walcott is probably looking for a little bit more.

But that’s simply petromillions funded madness, I hear you say. Maybe so and no one is expecting Wenger to pay his top stars the £180,000 a week reported wage that Carlos Tevez currently enjoys at Eastlands. But loosing a player as important to his team such as Walcott, over a matter or principal, seems difficult to understand.

Recent reports suggests that a compromise near or around the £85,000 a week mark could be enough to secure Walcott’s long-term future. Arsenal can afford to pay up to the £90k a week mark and considering the club raked in not far off £6million in gate receipts from the Spurs game, it’s hardly as if they can’t afford it.

Wenger can control his principles, but he can’t control the market. It’s not his fault that Walcott’s peers are earning contracts that the Frenchman wouldn’t be keen on handing out. Ashley Young was reportedly handed a contract worth in excess of £100,000 a week when he signed for Manchester United last year. Just yesterday, The Sun suggested that Stewart Downing is on £80,000 a week at Liverpool.

Compared to what players of similar or perhaps even lesser ability are earning at different clubs, Walcott isn’t living in another planet by demanding a little bit more a week from Arsenal. That’s not to say that Wenger and the board have to act like sheep in following the contract policy of other clubs. But on this occasion, it seems difficult to see how acting so stubbornly towards Walcott is even remotely necessary.

Arsenal can afford to dish out a little bit extra to Walcott for a few more years, not just because they’ve got the financial means to, but because it’s the right thing to do. He has his flaws as a footballer, but he’s a game-winner, a vital asset and an important part of this Arsenal team. They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. If Walcott does he leave, he won’t be the only one who’s footballing fortunes might take a turn for the worse.

How much is Theo worth a week? Join me on Twitter and tell me what you think. 


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