Five summer destinations for out of favour Arsenal attacker Theo Walcott
Robbie Purves | May 11, 2016
In August of last year, both Arsenal and Theo Walcott could’ve been forgiven for licking their lips at the prospect of making their mark on the Premier League and competing for the prize Gunners fans crave.
With a squad brimming with more talent that Arsene Wenger has ever had at his disposal since moving to the Emirates, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez settling nicely into London life and the arrival of top goalkeeper Petr Cech; Arsenal looked set for their strongest campaign in years. In reality, it has been another disappointing season.
No one epitomises this more than Walcott. Encouraged by a strong end to last year’s campaign that culminated in a new deal, the lightning fast forward looked to commemorate 10 years at the club with success. However, as the season winds to an end, the player finds himself out of form and favour.
Here we take a look at some of the potential destinations for the 27-year-old this summer…
West Ham United
The Hammers are in a period of immense change. After playing their last game at Upton Park, manager Slaven Bilic will lead the side to the Olympic Stadium with full backing of the board.
West Ham are reportedly looking to spend big this coming window and Walcott could be part of that. In an totally opposite method to most clubs’ hushed style of endeavouring to acquire talent, David Sullivan said: “we are going to make a £20m or £25m bid for a player in England this week.”
Bilic’s boys are favourites to have Walcott in their squad next season with Coral offer odds of 6/4 to land the pacey forward.
A combination of Dimitri Payet and Walcott would certainly be an intriguing partnership to watch, whether the Arsenal man plays either as a striker or winger.
With Pep Guardiola arriving this summer, the manager could look to add some much needed pace to the sluggish City side that has an average of age 29.
At both Barcelona and Bayern Munich he’s had rapid width. With the Bundesliga champions, it has recently come in the form of Douglas Costa after being signed last summer from Shakhtar Donetsk, and at Barca he brought through youth product Pedro Rodriguez. Walcott could be this player for City and are 5/1 to be the player’s next club.
With England colleague Raheem Sterling on the left and Walcott on the right, the duo could do some serious damage to most teams in the Premier League. However, Sergio Aguero would occupy the centre forward berth and would leave the current Arsenal man limited opportunities in the middle, a role Walcott strongly desires.
Despite many turning their noses up at his consistent longing to be a main central striker, Walcott actually boasts an impressive record from the centre. In his 22 games in the middle for both Southampton and Arsenal, Walcott has scored 12 times and registered eight assists.
The only worry is the question of Walcott being tactically astute enough to follow Guardiola’s meticulous orders. Wenger allows his players a huge amount of positional freedom; under the Catalan coach this will not happen.
Anfield manager Jurgen Klopp loves pace, power and intensity, so Walcott could slot nicely into Liverpool’s side and Merseyside is 6/1 to be Walcott’s next destination.
The player is a deadly threat from counter-attacks and is a strong finisher. However, it is his defensive contribution and awareness that may be a worry if the Reds are looking to add the forward.
Walcott has the tendency to float through games and only really care about one end of the pitch. If the pacey player was to be a success at Anfield, he would seriously need to evolve his game and show the same work rate he does attacking when defending. With Daniel Sturridge’s Liverpool future in doubt, Walcott could take his place.
As his contract expires in the summer of 2019, Walcott will command a large fee thought to be around the £20m mark. However, with with the new TV deal about to have Premier League teams brimming with expendable cash, this move could be be one to watch out for.
Southampton’s captain, Jose Fonte, says he’s spoken to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain about returning to the club and don’t be surprised if Walcott is also having sweet nothings whispered into his ear.
Ronald Koeman’s side play the sort of football he would thrive in, but Walcott may see a move back to the South coast as career regression and a step in the wrong direction.
Walcott left Southampton for Arsenal in January 2006 at the age of 16, and signed an initial pre-contract agreement to seal a professional contract on his 17th birthday. He’s 20/1 to return to St Mary’s.
Throughout his career, Walcott has proven he is more than just pace. Displayed during his time at Arsenal, he has shown great passing ability and clever understanding of spacing that could stand him in good stead if the player is willing to arrive on Spanish shores. After all, the last high-profile Southampton academy graduate to leave England isn’t doing too bad for Real Madrid.
Moving to Spain would present Walcott an opportunity to reinvigorate his career away from the intense scrutiny of the Premier League, and could flourish in a more technical, less physical style of football. Walcott is 6/1 to join any La Liga club this summer.
Somewhere like Valencia would be an ideal destination for the 27-year-old. Sofiane Feghouli, the Spanish side’s regular right winger, is out of contract in the summer and Walcott would be an outstanding replacement.
The Arsenal man’s service would complement superb finisher Paco Alcacer and with Valencia’s tendency to allow wingers to float inside, could present the Arsenal man with chances to play centrally.