In a stinging attack on an Arsenal side that is not, according to World Cup and European Championships winner Emmanuel Petit, “the team that I knew,” the former Gunners midfielder, who won the Premier League and F.A. Cup double with the 97-98 Arsenal side, which included free-scoring Dennis Bergkamp, an ever present Patrick Vieira and a young Nicolas Anelka, stated that Arsene Wenger should “send out a strong signal” and “say to Arshavin and Rosicky: ‘Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye.’”
The midfielder’s criticism comes in the wake of Arsenal’s hammering at the hands of an impressively potent AC Milan side, which scored with its first four shots on target, but enjoyed less of the possession than Arsenal’s spineless eleven on the night. According to a poll on The Telegraph’s website, 52.85% of the fans believe that it is too late for Arsene Wenger to build another trophy winning Arsenal side: but, considering The Gunners haven’t won a major trophy in seven years, the difference in opinion is barely noticeable with the remaining 47.15% of voters still believing the Frenchman can mould another winning side.
In a strong core eleven in the form of Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Kocielny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, Arsenal have a side capable of a top four finish: however, with depth lacking, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie both within 18 months of contract expiry and a few names failing repeatedly to step up and provide what Arsene Wenger promised of them, a top four finish, something Arsene Wenger has always delivered, isn’t the guarantee it used to be, leaving Gunners fans on tenterhooks.
Theo Walcott is one name that is being more and more strongly linked with a move away from The Emirates with each passing week, as is Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin, only helped further by the scathing condemnation of Emmanuel Petit: however, with van Persie into the last 16 months of his contract and turning 29 this summer, should Wenger be looking to offload the Dutchman and secure the future of Theo Walcott, who the Frenchman believes is destined to one day play as a centre forward?
On explaining the difference between Theo Walcott and Arsenal’s other Southampton Academy product, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wenger stated “Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a central midfielder one day and Walcott a central striker.” Although selling a striker responsible for 46% of Arsenal’s Premier League goals this season and 28 goals in all competitions, a mammoth 22 goals ahead of their second top scorer in Theo Walcott, who before the Swansea game last month hadn’t scored since October 29th’s 5-3 victory over Chelsea, seems ridiculous on face value, Arsenal’s ability to keep hold of van Persie is suffering a major blow with every missed opportunity of success. Selling him, on top of expected announced profits of £55m last year, aided by the sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, would provide the war chest for Wenger to build a trophy winning side that 47.15% of fans still believe he can.
Despite the criticism Theo Walcott gets week-in-week-out, slating him if he plays poorly or condemning him to inconsistency even if he plays well, I cannot help but think that if he leaves, it will be on to better things than Arsenal and a move up rather than down. With a strong core, and seven years of trophy chastity anyway, the best bet for Arsene Wenger achieving success, before his contract expires in 2014, would be to cash in on Robin van Persie before his contract expires, play Walcott in the centre forward role, before his career is ruined and judged to have not delivered by the age of 22, and play the exciting and skilful Chamberlain one side of him and the unorthodox Gervinho the other.