After Thursday’s press conference, Arsene Wenger took a few minutes with the gathered writers and in a surprise move outlined Arsenal’s position in their ongoing negotiations over Theo Walcott’s contract. In case you missed it, it went something like this: without Arsenal paying Theo handsomely over the last 7 years, taking a chance on his growth, training him, standing by him through several surgeries, and playing him when most other top club’s wouldn’t, he wouldn’t be the player that he is today; Theo, he went on to say, should take what Arsenal are offering him out of gratitude.
It was a stunning moralism to hear Arsene utter. Wenger was in essence invoking the fourth commandment of the Hebrew bible, honor your father and your mother, in the middle of a contract negotiation which will decide not his immortal soul but rather whether Theo Walcott will live out the rest of his life obscenely rich wearing an Arsenal badge on his chest or slightly more obscenely rich wearing a Chelsea badge on his chest.
What Arsene Wenger is asking Theo Walcott to do is almost unheard of in this age and I wonder if it doesn’t fall largely on deaf ears. Too many people are quick to argue that they would have a hard time turning down job offers of “double the money” and other such platitudes. Those who do so are in essence admitting that their morality is not based on an ethos of valuing the company they work for or the work they do but rather the ethos of simply getting as much money as possible. It reminds me of the conversation between the man and the woman where the man asks “Would you fuck me for $100?” No. “$100,000,000?” Sure. “So, you admit that you’re a whore and what we are doing here is just haggling over the price.”
On the other hand, if Theo does refuse Arsenal’s offer, he may convince himself that he’s leaving for the trophies promised by Chelsea or Man City but that’s a hollow claim as well. Ian Wright made that exact argument when Robin van Persie left for Man U, saying that if Robin wins a trophy with Man U he would be vindicated in leaving Arsenal. But Wrighty can’t say for certain that Robin van Persie playing along with Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud wouldn’t be title challengers.
And more to the point, so what? So what if they offer more trophies? What’s the point of winning a trophy if you have to stand on the backs of good people to lift them? Worse than just stand on Arsene Wenger’s back, if Theo leaves Arsenal “for the chance to win titles” -in the same way that Robin did – he is doing so at the expense of all of Arsenal’s hard work and faith. To leave Arsenal now would intentionally undermine all of the work that the club have done to build the team into a title challenger and give the product of that hard work to an opponent.
That is the moral dilemma that Arsene is setting out. Does Theo believe in honoring what we have done over the last seven years together or would he use the very same tools that Arsenal has given him against the club that formed him for the promise of 30 silver coins or the chance to win a trophy?
I’m not Walcott’s conscience so I can’t answer the question of which direction his moral compass points; honor thy father and mother or honor thy agent and banker?