Theo Walcott has been a member of Arsenal since manager Arsene Wenger signed him as a 16-year-old from Southampton on a conditional fee of £12 million in 2006, and the right winger has basically been a mainstay in the starting XI. But new rumors have surfaced this week that the 26-year-old might wear a different shade of red come next season.
Liverpool are apparently interested in Walcott as a possible replacement to Raheem Sterling, Express reported. Sterling has yet to sign an extension for his current deal, prompting Liverpool to explore their options. Sterling’s deal expires in 2017 and the forward has tabled contract talks until the season is finished.
Walcott hasn’t seen much of the field for Arsenal this season since returning from a knee injury. He’s started just three Premier League matches since returning on Jan. 1 and has only once played a full 90 minutes. Walcott has proven effective in his limited time, however, scoring three goals across all competitions. It’s still not much production for a player on a £90,000 per week contract. Walcott's contract expires in 15 months, and he is reportedly seeking a significant raise from his current deal.
Sterling is a promising young star and could command a large contract himself, forcing Liverpool to seek perhaps a veteran option like Walcott. Sterling has scored six goals and assisted on seven more in the Premier League, and seems to be living up to grandiose expectations. He’s a large part of a Liverpool side that is surging back into contention, and Brendan Rodgers certainly will not want to lose him. Manchester City could be interested in Sterling, according to a report from the Sun. Foreign sides Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have expressed interest as well, according to Mirror online.
The London Evening Standard reported that Walcott will want to see what his role is—and how much he features in the side—before coming to any decision about his future. Walcott grew up an Arsenal fan and still feels a strong loyalty to the club. The idea of losing a winger of Walcott's stature may may have serious implications into Arsenal's fluidity. Wenger has used a passing and attack system that often relies heavily on wing players, and Walcott usually looks quite comfortable in the system. However, the loss of Walcott would likely provide more opportunities for 21-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who may be poised to become a more serious attacking option. Versatile star Alexis Sanchez also provides a strong presence on the right side.
Another possible move for the Gunners could be the addition Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic. Arsenal have been given approval to sign the promising 20-year-old Croatian in the summer for a price tag set at about £17 million, according to Metro. Kovacic has scored five goals in Serie A play and is considered a play-making distributer who would bolster the Gunners’ midfield.
Express reported that if Arsenal were to make the move for Kovacic, then veteran midfielder Mikel Arteta would leave the club this summer. Expectations are the 32-year-old will leave this summer, with Real Sociedad reportedly interested. Arsenal were hopeful Arteta would return to the club for one more season to add experience to Wenger's side but a deal hasn't been reached. Arteta has appeared in just seven Premier League matches after suffering an ankle injury that required surgery in January.
Kovacic projects to be a talented player that can steady the center of the park or play as a more attacking-minded midfielder. He has also already proven himself on the international stage. He appeared in three World Cup matches for Croatia and has stood out for Inter Milan. Everton reportedly failed to land the highly sought after Kovacic with a £14.6 million bid, with Inter valuing the midfielder at £17.2 million, according to Metro.