The London Evening Standard are reporting (via their Arsenal beat reporter James Olley) that contract talks between Theo Walcott and Arsenal have been put on hold until the end of the season.
The England winger has just over a year left on his current deal and could, of course, walk away on a free transfer in the summer of 2016.
It’s worth noting that the first talk of a new deal took place in November 2014, with Arsene Wenger saying, “We are starting to sit down with him. I think he has one and a half years to go in December. It should be his peak years because he is 25. It’s the best years now, so hopefully we can profit from that.”
However, qualified that by saying, “It is never an easy job with him.”
Fast forward to last week when further reports emerged about Walcott’s contract situation with the Arsenal manager sounding a warning over the complications that arise every time it comes to negotiating with the player and his agents.
“The first contacts have been established with the embassy,” he quipped. “We will see how that progresses politically.
“He is very quick on the pitch but off the pitch, not always.”
The Times then reported that the offer on the table from Arsenal does not put him into the same wage bracket as the top earners, his position as the highest paid player at the club since usurped by Ozil and Sanchez.
So, last night both the Telegraph and the Mirror ran almost identical stories about how Walcott was a target for Liverpool as their worries over Raheem Sterling – similarly yet to sign a new deal – increase.
You don’t need to be a genius to work out that the papers received the same brief from the same source, a move designed to up the ante in terms of negotiation and brinksmanship.
Now today we have the Standard report saying that the talks have been put aside until the end of the season with both parties apparently ‘relaxed’ and ‘happy’ to let that happen. That itself probably tells you something about the thinking on either side.
From the player’s point of view, he and his people are trying to maximise the value of his next contract, whether that’s with Arsenal or elsewhere. It’s all part of the process, Walcott is far from alone in playing this kind of game.
From the club’s side, they won’t feel under as much pressure as they did last time around, simply because the overall level of the squad has improved since then and Walcott can’t exert as much pressure as he did back then.
The big question is what will happen if no agreement can be found. It seems unlikely that Arsenal will countenance losing him on a free, so if there’s a reluctance to renew, they’ll probably sell him with 12 months to go like they did with likes of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie.
Final point: the idea that players are too busy, or concentrating on their football, prevents them from signing a new contract are little more than fanciful notions/excuses. The agents do their thing, the club does their thing, and the player puts his paw-print on the bottom. That’s the sum-total of their involvement.
If a deal isn’t being signed it’s because there’s a problem: either the player doesn’t want to, or the club doesn’t want to (or both).
We spoke about this one developing into something of a saga. Well, here we are!