The Sunday Mirror has reported that Theo Walcott could become the subject of bids of £15 million from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. Walcott's contract will expire in a year's time and the issue of his future in North London has been overshadowed by the attention paid to Robin van Persie.
The article indicates that Walcott is seeking a new deal worth around £100,000 a week. The questions are whether he's worth that level of investment and whether Arsenal should be tempted by a £15 million offer.
There is always the temptation to believe that Walcott is just about to turn the corner and that his best form is still to come. In truth, there is some evidence to support this view.
The last two seasons have been the best of Walcott's Arsenal career. In the 2010/11 campaign, he enjoyed his most prolific year, netting 13 goals. Last season, Walcott hit 11 goals and was one of Arsenal's chief providers. He supplied eight assists, many of them setting up goals for van Persie.
So there is some reason to believe that Walcott is finally starting to realise his potential at club level. However, one thing that still escapes him is consistency.
There are too many games where Walcott is a mere passenger. Maximum effort is not always present in his game and he often appears willing to remain out wide and hide from the flow of play.
This is particularly evident in his movement off the ball. Walcott's lack of runs in behind a defense is the most frustrating aspect of his play. Too often, Walcott is content to toil on the wing instead of drifting inside or exploiting the gaps between the full-back and central defense.
The excuse that he is played out of position wore thin a long time ago. Playing on the right didn't prevent his match-winning cameo for England against Sweden at Euro 2012.
Walcott should be a lethal weapon for an Arsenal team featuring players creative enough to take advantage of his defense-stretching pace. Rather than model his game on Freddie Ljungberg, whose off-the-ball runs were a perfect foil for Arsenal's intricate passing design, Walcott has instead lobbied to play through the middle.
In fairness, his direct style may be out of place in the type of methodical build-up play that has defined Arsenal's style in recent seasons. Arsene Wenger rightfully crafted that approach to take advantage of Cesc Fabregas.
Walcott, though, is probably best suited to the old Bergkamp/Anelka/Henry model. However, that structure is unlikely to return—especially after the signings of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
So that leaves Arsenal to decide if he is worth £100,000 per week or if he is set to remain a streaky, hit-or-miss player. His big-game performances should be a decisive factor, and frankly, Walcott has failed to shine in too many key games. Given how often people lament the defensive frailties of Manchester United's Patrice Evra, why has Walcott never terrorised the Red Devils left-back?
£100,000 is too much to pay for an inconsistent player who will block the first-team progression of many others. Gervinho starred for Lille on the right side of their attack, yet Walcott's presence forced him over to the left side and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces the same issue.
If Wenger does not believe that the last two seasons are evidence that Walcott is ready to join the ranks of the game's elite, then Arsenal have to take any bid seriously.
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