An annual calendar cannot, by any means, act as an official announcement of a player leaving a football club. But Arsenal fans are suspicious over the lack of Bacary Sagna and Theo Walcott in the Gunners’ 2013 edition. Is their omission a pre-emptive move ahead of possible – or, for the latter at least, probable – moves away from the Emirates Stadium in the near future?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists that calendar-gate is a non-story – indeed French full-back Sagna is said to be in talks over a new contract with the club, despite his lamentation of Wenger’s transfer policy last summer.
Walcott’s future, however, remains rather opaque. His current contract, widely reported as being worth around £65,000 a week, expires this summer and, while the Gunners have offered an extra £15,000 a week in a new deal, the ex-Southampton forward is keeping his options open.
As a result, Wenger has often refused to include Walcott in his starting XI this season – despite Arsenal often lacking a direct, speedy threat going forward. When he has been picked though, Walcott has been a constant menace in what has been an otherwise ordinary campaign for the Gunners.
His goal against Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening was amazingly Walcott’s 10th of the season in all competitions – that is despite only starting seven matches. Even if Wenger and the Arsenal board do not bow to his increased wage demands, Walcott is not harming his chances of attracting other potential suitors.
A host of clubs have been linked with him in the recent past, including foreign sides such as Italian giants Juventus. However the strongest interest has come from Arsenal’s Premier League rivals – Chelsea and Liverpool are both said to be monitoring Walcott’s precarious situation in North London.
Both of those clubs will undoubtedly be in the market for a frontman in the hectic January transfer window, which opens in just over a month’s time. Walcott has made no secret of his ambitions to play as more of a central striker and he may be attracted to the opportunities in either West London or on Merseyside.
Wenger has categorically stated that Walcott will not be sold in January under any circumstance but, should a club submit a reasonable offer, it would make business sense for the Gunners to negotiate.
If Walcott does decide to move to pastures new, the spotlight will once again be turned on Arsenal. Having failed to hold onto the likes of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in recent times, observers will once again ask how far the club now is, in terms of reputation, behind the country’s top teams.
Indeed, whether Arsenal can continue to lose their most able players, such as Walcott, and still hope to progress both on – and off – the pitch is another key question.
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