Contract rebel Theo Walcott owes Arsenal after club 'gambled' on him, says Arsene Wenger
Manager claims 23-year-old must repay loyalty shown in him and stay at Arsenal
Friday 21 December 2012
Arsène Wenger said yesterday that Theo Walcott owes Arsenal a debt after the club took a "gamble" on him.
Arsenal spent £5m on the 16-year-old Walcott from Southampton in 2006 and he has made 238 appearances for them. As negotiations over a new contract drag on, Wenger said that Walcott owes them for giving him a chance ahead of more experienced players, weakening the team in the process.
"I believe what is important to keep the young players together is that at some stage I have stood up for them," Wenger said yesterday. "'I played you at 17, 18, 19 years of age and I know I took a gamble.' It is easier to take a player of 25 and put him in the team. You know what you are getting."
"If you put them in at 17 or 18, you have to stand up for them. You know you risk losing games while they are learning their job. Once you have produced them, you want to say, 'Okay, let's stay together and win together.'"
Having invested in the future by picking Walcott for years, Wenger believes Arsenal are entitled to a return on that in the form of loyalty. "I am happy to pay Theo the money he deserves," Wenger said. "But I feel as well that I bought him at 17 years of age and spent a lot of money on him. I am a big supporter and I believe he is happy here. He has always looked to me like he is an Arsenal man."
"Somewhere along the line they need to give back to the club what the club has given to them. After when a guy gets to 30, you can understand it is his last contract and if he feels he wants a change, I can understand that. This is a more sensitive age, but basically, it is a reward for our policy."
Wenger was speaking the day after the confirmation that five of the Arsenal's young British players, including Jack Wilshere, had signed new contracts. Wenger believes that after losing several key foreign players, he will have more chance of keeping a British generation.
"When [Cesc] Fabregas says to me, 'I want to go back to Barcelona,' it is difficult for me to say, 'No, why should you?' He is from Barcelona. He has been educated there. In that sense it is easier with the English players. They feel at home."
Robin van Persie, though, left Arsenal without returning home. He went to Manchester United instead. But Wenger said that was the ambition of an older player, and Walcott's case was different: "[Van Persie] was 29. Theo is 23. I believe it is important we keep him."
Alisher Usmanov, who has a stake of just under 30 per cent in Arsenal but is not on the club's board yesterday said that Wenger had not had enough support from the directors.
The Uzbek billionaire questioned Arsenal's financial strategy in a television interview with CNBC. "For example, on the commercial side, I think there are also many questions about the effectiveness of the commercial management of Arsenal," he said.
"Mr Wenger is one of the best coaches in the world. During the last five years he hasn't had enough support to provide his conceptions of his game from the board. This decision [selling Van Persie] was a mistake. If I was one of Wenger's players I would want to stay for the finish, but he explained Robin wanted to go to win trophies."
Latest in Sport
Gabriel Paulista: Talented Brazilian could grow into world-class defender at Arsenal
Australian Open 2015: Serena Williams vs Madison Keys match preview
Tottenham player ratings: Christian Eriksen? Harry Kane? Who was the star man at Bramall Lane?
Andy Murray vs Tomas Berydch: Murray cool over reunion with coach Dani Vallverdu at the Australian Open
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Pair finally meet at NBA game and shake hands, will the fight be announced during Super Bowl?
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures