Walcott’s future in the balance as Reds stand first in queue
Following an impressive start to their Premier League campaign that sees them unbeaten and third in the league, Sunday’s encounter at the Etihad Stadium will provide the first real insight into how successful Arsenal’s season will be.
Hold the champions to a respectable draw or even nick a win, and Wenger’s men will be discussed as genuine title contenders for the first time in years. Succumb to a defeat, and despite these early stages, they’ll be once again branded as also-rans whose best chance of silverware will come in the cup competitions.
One outcome that pundits, the media and fans won’t be so quick to judge on tomorrow evening, however, will be the future of England winger Theo Walcott.
Yet to sign a contract since dithering over Arsenal’s first offer back in August, Walcott has alerted Premier League rivals keen to nab the former Southampton player should he see out his contract and become available on a free transfer at the end of the season.
This isn’t Arsenal’s, or indeed Wenger’s, first ever ‘contract rebel’ situation in recent years, and the Arsenal boss has given his first hint yet that the club will look to sell Walcott in January in order to avoid seeing him leave for nothing just months later.
Wenger said: “I still hope to sign him and the next two months will be vital because, after that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is.”
Given that Walcott is yet to start any of Arsenal’s league games this season, Wenger’s selection policy is hardly likely to persuade the England man to sign up any time soon, making it increasingly likely that he’ll be packing his bags in January.
Among the sides keen to recruit him in January are Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers so far unimpressed with Liverpool’s lack of a creative edge so far in the league this season.
Much has been made of the Northern Irishman’s ethos and focus on keeping possession, but not to be overlooked of his time at Swansea was his keenness to penetrate down the flanks, with the likes of Sinclair, Dyer and Routledge proving key men.
Rodgers would certainly see the pace of Walcott providing a similar service in his new side.