Pitchside

Would Arsenal really sell Theo Walcott to Monaco?

Pitchside Europe

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Newspaper reports this morning have linked Monaco with a blockbuster £34 million move for Arsenal's Theo Walcott.

At first glance it seems like nothing more than paper talk - a rumour-by-numbers linking a rich foreign club to a big Premier League star.

[Paper Round: Monaco eye monster bid for Walcott]

But the more you think about it, the more it starts to make sense. We're not saying it will definitely happen - but here's why a big-money move could suit all parties.

WHY WOULD ARSENAL SELL?

There seems to be a theory that, after splashing £40 million on Mesut Ozil on deadline day, Arsene Wenger has forgotten about concepts like value or net spend, and will spend January throwing money around until he gets the overpriced player he wants.

Nonsense. Wenger still cares about value - it's just that Ozil, even at £40m, represented value. He could be the difference between a grim scrap for fourth place and a serious tilt at major silverware. Clearly that's money well spent. The Frenchman always said he would spend on the right player, and Ozil was the right player.

But it doesn't mean he has abandoned the principles on which he has based his entire career - buying low, selling high and acting with financial prudence.

It's broadly accepted that, in January, Arsenal need to boost their strikeforce, which is currently an Olivier Giroud ankle sprain away from Apocalypse Bendtner.

Walcott fancies himself as a central striker, and Wenger has previously seemed receptive to the notion. But the Englishman doesn't boast much of a track record up top and his lack of consistency is a worry.

So a top striker remains a priority, and it's hard to imagine Wenger spending another £30 million without first trimming his squad. And £34m for Walcott would boost the coffers and represent an excellent return on investment.

What's more, during his absence through injury Arsenal have gone top of the league and the winger grows more dispensable by the day.

Walcott will struggle to get a game when he returns from injury. Ozil's arrival, plus the stunning emergence of Aaron Ramsey, plus Mathieu Flamini's rock-steady influence, means competition for places is extremely fierce.

Walcott, Ozil, Ramsey, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta - there's no five-man unit Wenger can pick that doesn't leave out some major quality. While strength in depth is one thing, no manager wants depreciating assets rotting away on the bench. And with Lukas Podolski already playing that unhappy role, Wenger may well see the need to subtract before he adds.

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WHY WOULD WALCOTT GO?

It is less than 12 months since, after much agonising, Walcott penned a new contract at Arsenal. However, he rejected the club's offer of a five-year-deal which means at the end of the season, he will only have two years left - round about the time players start angling for new deals. The horror.

His desire to play up front is well-documented, but Wenger has paid little more than lip-service to the player's wishes. Plus, as we have seen, the Arsenal midfield is an increasingly crowded and talented place, and it's not inconceivable that Walcott could find himself on the fringes.

If he finds himself on the bench in January, six months away from a World Cup in Brazil, why wouldn't he do everything in his power to secure first-team football?

Monaco would offer a terrific new challenge, greater certainly of Champions League football, and of course great wheelbarrows-ful of cash.

If the club can lure the likes of Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, it seems naive to imagine Walcott couldn't also be tempted.

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DO MONACO WANT HIM AND WOULD THEY PAY £34M?

(By eurosport.fr journalist Glenn Ceillier)

Does a £34m Monaco bid for Walcott sound realistic?

Yes. Monaco can make this offer. It’s only a rumour but they have the money to do it (Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev spent £145m improving his squad in the summer). And they need players.

How would Walcott fit in at Monaco?

Monaco has already young players that play on the wing, like Lucas Ocampos and Ferreira Carrasco. They have been quite good this season. But Monaco needs players, especially if they play in the Champions League next season. They have a good XI but their bench is not very “deep”. They don’t have enough substitutes.

What's the French view of Walcott - is he considered a quality player?

He's a good player. But not a top class player. He can play on the wing or up front, so he has an interesting profile. He's not worth £34m, but Monaco have shown they are willing to overpay for players like James Rodriguez, so the money is not an obstacle.

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Alex Chick (Twitter @alex_eurosport)

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