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

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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn