I’ve just about got my breath back. Have you?
Arsenal’s completely barmy 7-5 victory over Reading was nothing, if not completely bonkers.
Everything we love and hate about our favourite football teams were flung together and shaken up into one delicious cocktail that none of us who witnessed it – particularly those of an Arsenal persuasion – are ever likely to forget. A sadistically thrilling mash-up of sloppy attitudes, half-hearted defending, appalling passing, disappointing end product, mental fortitude, gay abandon, sublime skill, predictable unpredictability, pride, and most importantly near-orgasmic entertainment; it had it all.
But what lessons can be learned from the wreckage of this glorious mess?
Plenty I’d say, but the most valuable of all is perhaps this; Arsenal really MUST retain the services of Theo Walcott.
Without him, the Gunners would be demoralised and dumped out of the Capital One Cup, humbled by struggling Reading.
Without him, the Gunners would in all likelihood sit in tenth place with two less points, thanks to his destructive second half cameo at West Ham United last month.
Without him, I suspect, the Gunners would be playing Europa League football this season, such was his impact at crucial times last term.
Theo is a game changer. He’s a match winner. He’s different.
Granted, Walcott isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and despite being a fan of him, that’s not difficult for me to comprehend. However, I do find it hard to understand why Arsenal would seemingly be content to lose him to one of their rivals for nothing.
They probably aren’t. I should say that. In fact they’re extremely keen to retain the 23-year-old’s services beyond the end of his current contract which expires in June. Just not by the sounds of it, at the expense of their principles.
While none of us have been privy to the conversations which have taken place between Arsene Wenger, Theo Walcott, his agent and the board; it does appear both sides are playing hard ball.
Arsenal are not, and have never been, prepared to be held to ransom by any individual (my own minor contract negotiations in the early 90s are an incomparable testament to that) and despite that sounding old fashioned in the current climate, it’s still an admirable policy which should be respected.
Top negotiators have to be strong enough to walk away from a deal, and there’s no question that Arsenal have done that in the past. And they’ll do it again.
Arsenal’s problem, it seems, is that Theo Walcott and his management team picked up their bargaining techniques at a similar school. While they regularly disclose the winger’s desire to remain at the Emirates, they also continually hint at his tactical preferences and failure to accept the terms on offer.
His representatives may as well just come out and say ‘Give us what we want and play him where he wants, or he’s definitely off’ because that’s the end game we’re heading towards. With a shiny pot of Bosman transfer gold lying in wait for him and his representatives, why wouldn’t they stand firm?
It may have been just a Capital One Cup clash at Reading on Tuesday night, but this was a match which clearly showcased Walcott’s worth to Arsene Wenger’s side.
Theo will always score goals, driving inside defenders with his speed and finishing with aplomb. He’ll always create goals too, either through his instinctive play or the space he creates for others as they drop deep to defend against him.
He isn’t the most talented member of the Gunners squad – not by a long way – but he is undoubtedly the most destructive. And for that reason Theo Walcott makes Arsenal a better and more dangerous side.
Just this time, I’d love to see Arsenal bend a little and sort this deal out swiftly. As long as it doesn’t break the bank, give Theo what he wants and let’s be done with it.
Why? Simply because at this stage of his career, at this crucial period in Arsenal’s rebuilding process; he’s going to be worth it.
Click here to read more from ex Arsenal midfielder Adrian Clarke.