Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Confusing Signals

It's been interesting to read, watch and listen to the reaction to Theo Walcott's latest performance against Reading. Not just because the manchild known previously as Theo 'doesn't have a football brain' Walcott has suddenly become the black Messi but because his performance has been reassessed and devalued in almost the same sentence as the praise by use of four words 'It was only Reading'.

It's curious that in a league where there are going to be only six (?) possible challengers for the top four that a player who plays well against a team outside that small group finds himself on the defensive and questioned. Pundits constantly talk about the big teams needing players who can score 20 goals a season and yet here is one who, given the right position for his natural pace and ability to act on instinct, could score 20 goals a season and help his team be considered serious contenders for a trophy this season.

Of course Walcott's real place in the bigger scheme of things does depend on him being able to perform against better quality defenders than those employed by Reading but what he has shown in the last month is that given the chance to play in his preferred position he is a real asset.

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Driving back from a clients I had the opportunity to listen for the best part of an hour to a discussion about Frank Lampard and the ongoing saga over whether or not Chelsea will offer him another contract.

There were two aspects of the debate that caught my attention, the first was the notion that Frank has been such a great servant of the club that it is the least they can do by offering him at least one more year. I found that concept quite intriguing, the idea that somebody earning somewhere north of £100,000 a week should be paid a further £5 million simply because 'he deserves it'. You only have to look at the details of Robin van Persie's deal with Manchester United to realise two things, firstly Arsenal simply couldn't afford him and secondly he knew that and I suspect that Chelsea are of the opinion that having paid somebody in excess of £40 million in basic salary over the last decade they have shown enough carrot and now want to use some stick.  

The second, and probably more intriguing debate, was over where Frank would go after Chelsea. It seems that there are three options: USA, QPR and......West Ham. I suspect the three could be seen as that much cliched 'new challenge' but I can't think why he would return to the Boleyn after more than a decade living it up in the west. In those ten years he has been abused home and away by West Ham fans for the simple reason that like Paul Ince and Jermain Defoe his departure was seen as a betrayal of the club and the fans rather than a simple football issue. You only had to watch the 1-3 home defeat to Liverpool the other week to see how those players who left against their will, or at least against their better instincts, are treated compared to that handed out to Frank twice a season. Glenn Johnson was (and still is as far as I know) a West Ham fan who only ever wanted to play for the club, who was upset when sold to Chelsea and who never celebrates when he scores against us (which he does every time he plays us), the fans understand that he was part of a fire sale and respect this.  Likewise Joe Cole, a Chelsea fan from Arsenal's neck of the woods.

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