Even though Walcott was making his presence felt on the pitch (scoring against Reading and Newcastle, and creating a penalty kick opportunity against Wigan), he still did not demonstrate the consistency that one would expect from a player demanding £100,000 a week. That kind of salary would put him among the top, if not at the top, of all the players. Is he actually more valuable to AFC than a Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta, or Podolski? I would argue not.
Arsenal’s offer to Theo was allegedly £75,000 a week for five years. Perhaps a bit on the stingy side, but not far off the mark. I was expecting Arsenal to make a counter-offer of 85 or 90 max. Take it, or be sold.
But on January 18, the BBC announced that Walcott had signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract with Arsenal, worth £100,000 a week. Throw in a £3 million signing bonus, and that package is worth around £21 million, or $33 million CAD. Good thing I’m not a gambling man.
I’m guessing that Arsène Wenger rationalized the offer thusly:
– In 3.5 years, Theo will be 27. Either he’ll become the next RVP and we can negotiate one final blockbuster contract, or he’ll remain the pacey, above-average player that he is now and we can move him to another club for good money. Next year, we’ll have a brand new shirt deal, and the stadium’s almost paid off, so we can afford to give him RVP-type money at that point.
– A website (I forget which one) mentioned something about how popular Walcott is in China; so part of the new deal includes image rights. If you’ve ever visited Arsenal Direct, then you already know that Arsenal are not above selling merchandise. They will be able to recoup some of their investment by selling photos, posters, signed shirts, T-shirts, mugs, figurines, and anything else with Theo’s face on it.
– Wenger likes to have two good players at every position, so now he can rotate between Giroud and Walcott at center forward, without having to dip into the over-priced Big and Dumb Striker market. That saves a lot of money. He still has pace on the wings: Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho (lol) and Rosicky.
– He still has 11 days remaining in the transfer window to buy another impact player. He’s going to gamble that Diaby will be able to stay healthy; that leaves left-back and perhaps a backup keeper. Should be easier to find than a proven striker.
So why am I calling January 18 a turning point in history? It’s certainly not because I think Walcott will become the next RVP. It’s because we finally stopped the exodus of marquee players; the kind of players that are loved by the fans, and represent the club well. I didn’t miss Nasri, but I must admit it hurt to lose Fabregas and RVP. If we had lost Walcott too, a lot of goodwill would have been lost. The club made a statement by retaining the services of six British players (Wilshere, The Ox, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Ramsey and Theo) for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we’ll stop being a feeder club, and actually demonstrate some ambition.
Our next shirt deal, if adjusted for the current market prices, will probably give us around £20-25m per season. So not only can we afford to retain our starlets, but we can also buy a proven star or two.
How does it change our current season? Probably not much. I think we have a decent shot at a fourth place finish, and we have as good a chance as any in the FA Cup tournament. Even though our fixture list is congested at the moment, I’m confident we will get results.
It all starts tomorrow, with the match against Chelsea, where we won 5-3 last season. What an opportune moment for Theo to prove his worth. Up the Arsenal!