There’s still plenty of drama to feast on before the end of 2015/16, but football fans across the globe will already have one eye cast towards the next transfer window, which opens on July 1st. A number of rumours are circulating with intensity; let’s take a further look at the proposed move of Theo Walcott to Arsenal.
It’s a very exciting time to be a West Ham United fan right now; Slaven Bilic’s side are currently preparing for an FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford while the club are also just one point adrift of the Premier League’s top four. Added to the fact a move to the Olympic Stadium is just months away, 2016 is shaping up to be a phenomenal year for the Londoners.
Regardless of what happens between now and the campaign’s climax, the Hammers will almost certainly be one of the Premier League’s most active clubs this summer. Bilic has the full backing of owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who will be eager to fire a huge signal of intent with at least once blockbuster signing ahead of their first season in Stratford. Could Arsenal’s Theo Walcott be that headline acquisition?
Speculation has grown steadily over the past few days and a Football Index rating of 3.3 suggests that all parties could be weighing up the deal. The England international has made no secret about his desire to occupy a central berth, and patience is clearly running thin ahead of his 27th birthday. With Gunners boss Arsene Wenger unlikely to cave in, a move away from the Emirates looks almost inevitable. Unfortunately, wage demands will leave Walcott with very limited options; West Ham one of the potential suitors that could meet those requirements.
Gold and Sullivan have already shown their commitment to helping Bilic assemble a formidable squad as he prepares to take them to a new home. Star man Dimitri Payet recently saw his wage bumped up to a reported £125,000 a week. The owners are certainly prepared to open their chequebooks for the right type of player. It would appear that Walcott is firmly on the radar.
For all their quality, there is no doubt that West Ham could do with a new striker. The likes of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia are brilliant on their day, but don’t show the consistency needed to match the club’s apparent ambitions. Whether it’s this year, next year or a little further down the line, the Hammers have set their targets on clinching Champions League football. If nothing else, Walcott’s experience would be a welcomed addition.
Meanwhile, Andy Carroll is undoubtedly a fantastic target man. Sadly, a proneness to injury could see Bilic decide to cut his losses. Selling the 6ft 4in striker would free up a significant amount of money in terms of wages while his transfer fee would make a big difference to the Financial Fair Play regulations. If the powerful striker does leave this summer, though, the Hammers will almost certainly need to sign a big name striker.
If newspaper talk is to be believed, then Bilic is prepared to make Walcott his number one central striker. With Payet supplying the ammunition, the England man would fancy his chances of finally hitting the personal heights that were forecast over a decade ago during his time in the Southampton academy. For all his promise, an inability to hold down a regular place has limited the Arsenal No.14 to just 54 Premier League strikes. On the other hand, the attacker will point to impressive 2012/13 stats (14 goals and 10 assists) as evidence of what he can achieve when given a fair crack of the whip.
The one major concern for Bilic and West Ham would be whether Walcott could operate as a lone striker. The Hammers have excelled with a three-man midfield this term and would be reluctant to alter a winning formula. At a proposed fee of £26 million, it would certainly be a risk. Should things turn out well, though, it could be a masterstroke as the Englishman reaches what should be his peak years. His pace will always pose a threat to opposing defences and could become a major weapon in the Hammers attack. If it fails, there would always be the option to shift him onto the wing.
After a decade of fits and starts, it appears that both Walcott and Arsenal would be open to a summer transfer. However, club and player will require a suitable deal. It’s not hard to see why West Ham have emerged as the most likely suitor at this stage as they could match the Gunners’ valuation while offering the England star an extended shot at the position he so desperately wants to occupy.
Staying in London is another aspect that would presumably appeal too while the opportunity to establish himself as a club icon as the Hammers start their first chapter in a new home certainly adds an extra appeal, particularly after he failed to do it at the Emirates.
There’s still a long way to go until the window reopens, but this rumour is certainly one to watch with our transfer index over the coming weeks.