Theo Walcott may be next in line to leave Arsenal this transfer window. According to The Telegraph, Everton are lining up a £20 million bid for the Englishman and are confident they can beat out Southampton for his services. Selling Walcott would clear his £110,000-a-week wages from Arsenal’s books and free up space for new signings.
Walcott has fallen out of favor at Arsenal. He hasn’t started a Premier League match this season and has often been left off the match day roster. Nevertheless, his output has been respectable, 6 goals and 2 assists in 17 appearances, albeit against lesser competition. At 28 years old, he’s probably not part of the club’s long term plans.
Arsenal appear to be headed for more activity than normal in the January window. Francis Coquelin has already been sold to Valencia. Alexis Sánchez to City seems like a forgone conclusion. Walcott moving would make three first team players out the door before the window is halfway through.
None of those moves are bad business (and the Coquelin move is decidedly good business), but Arsenal do need to have enough first-team caliber players. The club is still in the Europa League and challenging for the top four. Players are going to get tired and / or hurt, and the club will need cover.
There are two ways Arsenal could go. The first is to say “let’s see if the kids can get the job done” and to rely on players like Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and others to step up. There is developmental value in giving them meaningful playing time, and at some point, Arsenal will need to find out whether those guys are good enough to form the backbone of the club a few years down the road.
But it’s a risky proposition. Outside of those three players, the younger guys don’t have much experience outside of cup competitions and the Europa League group stages which let’s face it, wasn’t the stiffest competition. They might not be up to the task for the Premier League and the knockout stages.
The second route is to bring in reinforcements. That the club is selling off fringe players suggests that this is the more likely route. New signings don’t preclude expanded roles for younger players, they just ensure that Arsenal will have the manpower and quality to compete on multiple fronts.
So who might be coming in? Well, it’s the silly season so everybody has been linked to everybody. But Arsenal have been linked, at least somewhat reliably, to West Brom centerback Jonny Evans, Bordeaux starlet Malcom, and Boca Juniors prodigy Cristian Pavon, among others.
One thing is clear - with Walcott the latest familiar name rumored to be heading out the door and several players currently out of contract, next year’s Arsenal could look dramatically different.