The Champions League draw will be happening tomorrow and we’ll find out who’s in our group. We will definitely be one of the top 8 seeds and that should ensure a much easier task than say, Manchester City. On one hand, it would be better if we get weaker teams which should make our qualification to the next stage more comfortable. But on the other hand, better teams makes it a much more enjoyable albeit nervous spectacle. However, as in any competition, we need to beat what’s in front of us to emerge as champion. Hence why I’m hoping for the latter.
Yet, the draw is not the immediate thing on Arsene Wenger’s mind. First is the start of the NextGen series. The tournament involving the cream of the crop of the under-19’s in Europe. This is a very good tournament as it allows the Arsenal youth/reserves players to match their talents against continental sides. Adding this to their already revamped U-21 league, it helps to provide more exposure and learning opportunities for these youngsters. Three higher profile players who will feature from our side will be Thomas Eisfeld, Chuks Aneke and Serge Gnabry. They and the rest of the team will be hoping to impress the manager enough to get the call-up for the Capital One Cup. Besides that, it is also an opportunity for our scouts to have a closer look at some of the talents from all over Europe.
The other thing on Wenger’s mind would be Theo Walcott. The Englishman has apparently 48 hours to sign a contract extension of be sold. Which doesn’t take a genius to figure out considering the fact that the transfer window closes on Friday. The number being thrown around is £75,000 per week. Which is not a hefty sum in today’s market but perhaps representative of what Arsenal thinks he’s worth. There’s no point hiding the fact that Walcott could get a lot more at other clubs.
Liverpool and Manchester City are thought to be interested in recruiting him. You can see the logic in that as both are in need of a pacy wide man in their side. Not the central striking role that Walcott has always yearned for. I’m not entirely sure on Liverpool but City would definitely be able to double what we’re offering to Walcott. An easy decision to make if Walcott’s concern is entirely about the money. However, I doubt that is the case.
Walcott will know that he is at the best club to continue his education. A club whose manager has overseen his progress for the last 6 years and only want what is best for him. A manager who stuck by him when the press, experts and even fans are calling for him to be dropped. Poor first touch, lack of footballing brain and no end product; are just some of the phrases being thrown in his direction.
Yet, we cannot deny the fact that Walcott has shown signs of improvement, especially in last season’s campaign. His decision making was better and it wasn’t just about driving to the byline and speeding past his markers. His ball control has also improved as can be seen by some of the goals he scored last season. His pace does make opposition team adapt to playing deeper against us and thus allowing more space in midfield for us to operate. It would be a shame to see him leave but anyone who thinks that the impact of him leaving is the same as Robin van Persie’s one or even Alex Song’s one, you may just be delusional.
Here is a very replaceable player on our books. A very good lad by all accounts and one who is always respectful to the coaches and the fans. However, all that doesn’t hide the fact that Walcott has not quite hit the heights of what we thought he was capable of. The assist in the first game against Aston Villa that set up the Gilberto Silva equaliser. Fair to say, Walcott has not lived up to his billing. Perhaps Arsenal is also mindful of that fact. Perhaps that amount is what the club really wants to offer Walcott but there’s a side of me who thinks that we are trying to force his hand by offering such numbers. In which Arsenal are probably ready to show Walcott the exit. One could only hope that we’ve been planning for this and has replacements on the ready.
One player who has left and wouldn’t be replaced is Henri Lansbury. The England U-21 international has been allowed to move to Nottingham Forest on a permanent deal. Lansbury has been part of the Arsenal for such a long time that it’s hard not to consider him one of us. Didn’t get many chances with us and probably rightly so. An average midfielder at best, it was always going to be hard for him to find a place in the first team. Best of luck to him at Forest.
Wednesday and still no sign of us being closer to a new signing. It’s all getting very tight now.