Theo Walcott is not the best player on the planet. He’s not even the most promising player on the planet: an Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, El Shaarawy, or whomever is the flavor of the month. But Theo Walcott has plenty going for him and has reportedly signed a new deal with the Arsenal paying him a salary of just £85k per week with a £3m signing bonus over three and a half years. Simply put, it’s a deal that makes sense for both Arsenal and Theo Walcott.
Walcott is just 23 years old and on the verge of blossoming as a player. He started his Arsenal career slowly. Netting his first goal in the League Cup final against Chelsea. It then took him 5 seasons to get into double digits in goals and 6 seasons to do the same in assists. But this season has been his best return yet, scoring 14 goals and adding 10 assists in 24 apps all competitions, many as a sub.
Strikers usually mature between 25 and 29, and that means that this 3.5 year deal keeps Walcott at Arsenal until right in the middle of that maturation period. Many are already complaining that the brevity of the deal means Arsenal will be renegotiating with Walcott in just 18 months, but in reality that is the perfect time for both him and the team to reevaluate his contract. If he’s matured, you make him rich(er). If he’s stayed at the same level, you move him on.
It’s that last bit “you move him on” which I think is one of the best parts of the deal. Many people reporting that the deal is worth £100k a week, but the Beeb says that he’s making that amount after a £3m signing on bonus. That means he’s only making ~£85k a week. “Only”, I know. But in the new reality of the Premier League with massive television monies flooding teams’ coffers and the Sheikhigarchy hyperinflating player salaries, £85k a week is not an eye-popping sum. Wayne Bridge is still making £90k a week from Manchester City to play for Arsenal’s next opponent in the FA Cup, Brighton Hove & Albion.
The £3m signing on bonus is another great bit of news. The two of you who have been following me since the Flamini days know that I have long argued that Arsenal should be using signing on bonuses as a means of keeping salaries low but retaining top talent in the last year of their contracts. With Flamini the choice was clear, it was going to cost Arsenal £15m to replace him or they wouldn’t replace him and instead wait around for two years as Alex Song matured into the position for “free”. I use Flamini intentionally, because while I know that his career has suffered after leaving Arsenal I still think his partnership with Cesc was crucial to Arsenal nearly winning the League in 2007/08. And his loss set the team back two years.
(Edit: Somehow this paragraph didn’t publish the first time.)
You also can’t forget about the premium that top English players command in the transfer market. Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, and Stewart Downing are the most notorious examples but setting aside Liverpool’s profligacy players like Ashley Young (£17m), James Milner (£28m), and Gareth Barry (£12m) all cost far more in the transfer market than a comparable foreign player would. So, again, £3m as a signing bonus is insanely cheap.
- Carroll — £35m — 1 goal, 0 assists
- Milner — £28m — 3 goals, 0 assists
- Young — £17m — 0 goals, 3 assists
- Walcott — £3m — 8 goals, 6 assists
Above all though, Wenger prefers to keep his players rather than break the team up and buy replacements. In this, his fourth Arsenal team, he has gone with a decidedly British flavor; Wilshere, Walcott, Chamberlain, Gibbs, Ramsey, and Jenkinson represent a core of British players all of whom are young, hungry, and have been steeped in the Arsenal culture. The signing of Walcott was the last step in assuring that core would be around for a few more years.
And really, how much would it cost to buy a 23 year old English forward who has experience at a top club, and has scored 8 goals and contributed 6 assists? Those are numbers similar to players like Marco Reus, Thomas Meuller, Carlos Tevez, and Eden Hazard. Suddenly £3m is looking like quite the deal.
And while I am fully aware of the fact that Walcott can be frustrating and has shown some worrying signs of tactical indiscipline I still think that pound for pound, with his nose for goal, his pace, and his being the best “wide” player that the club have at the moment, this is a very good deal for Arsenal.