Tuesday 26 September 2017

Gunners exodus: Chelsea line up Walcott swoop as board letter reveals deep divisions at Arsenal

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott

Jamie Holland

STILL reeling from Robin van Persie's declaration that he wants to leave, Arsenal are now facing a fight to hold onto another of their star players, with Chelsea and Paris St Germain understood to be targeting Theo Walcott.

Van Persie's contract situation has been the focus for much anxiety around the Emirates Stadium, but Walcott also has only one year left to run on his deal, with the exodus of players showing no signs of abating.

Arsenal lost three first-team players -- Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy -- last summer and, although manager Arsene Wenger had been desperate not to go through such a traumatic off-season again, it looks as though history may well repeat itself.

Walcott hasn't always been a fixture in Arsenal's team since signing from Southampton, but his stunning Champions League cameo in 2008 against Liverpool and a hat-trick for England against Croatia later that year showed why he was rated so highly.

He also made an impact at the recent European Championships, scoring a goal and setting up another in England's victory against Sweden and, at 23, his best years could still be ahead of him.

Whether those years will be at Arsenal, however, is not so certain, with Chelsea keen to continue their summer spending spree, while Paris St Germain have also been linked.

Should either, or both, of Van Persie and Walcott leave, it would increase the division within the Arsenal board -- which was laid bare yesterday in a five-page letter from Alisher Usmanov, the club's second largest shareholder.

"You can try and put a good face on a bad game for as long as you want, pontificating about the merits of this model, but it will not hide the obvious fact that it just does not allow our great manager to fully realise his managerial talent and deliver success for the fans who are paying the highest prices in the land," said Usmanov.

He also claimed that securing a place in the Champions League "will be the pinnacle of our ambition again next season" and warned that, in the future, "we may see this ambition lowered further".

Irish Independent

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