Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere ended deadline day without a club while Theo Walcott ended up back at Southampton where his career began, so what happened to the trio of former Arsenal men?
You would be forgiven for thinking Wilshere, Welbeck and Walcott were all racking up the digits in their 30s, but it is only Theo, still seen by some as a player with potential, who is over 30. He turned 31 in March.
Danny and Jack haven’t even reached that milestone, the former 29 and the latter 28.
Wilshere was at pains to stress that he has been fit for a large chunk of his time at West Ham and this is not a false statement. It is, sadly, a misleading one, though.
He signed for West Ham on a free transfer when it was made clear to him that he would not be a starter at Arsenal. Manuel Pellegrini talked a reluctant West Ham board into giving the midfielder a three-year deal as both a show of faith in the player and the manager, a move that turned out to be misguided.
In his statement, Jack wrote, “I have been fully fit for a large period of time at the club, including over the last eight months – training hard every day – but unfortunately have not been give the opportunity to play.” That sounds impressive until you remember that out of those last eight months, there was no football for four-and-a-half to five of them. In fact, Wilshere had a groin injury that ruled him out from 26 December until the break when he got fit.
Across two seasons, Jack played just 837 minutes in 19 matches with one goal, one assist and two yellows. He played the full 90 in his first three games for West Ham after signing for them and then never again in any competition except the league cup, where he did it once. He managed 64 minutes, 56 and 45 once each in the league and 82 and 66 in the EFL Cup. Beyond that, his appearances read 5, 5, 22, 23, 20, 15, 12, 27, 22, 13.
Injuries, on the other hand, kept him out of 53 games, just tending to come to fitness as seasons wound down.
Ankle injuries have cost Wilshere at least 102 games across his career and 31 at West Ham. When you add in his stress fractures, fatigue fractures, hairline fractures, knee injuries and groin problems you get to a total of 208 games missed through injury since he first burst onto the scene.
Wilshere played a total of 198 times for Arsenal.
There is, as we have always known, a tremendous player inside Jack Wilshere. From the days when he tormented Pepe Guardiola and Barcelona as a teenager until now, we all know what a talent he is.
Sadly, that skill has been delivered to earth in a body not meant for top-level sports.
Danny Welbeck’s release from Watford after the mutual termination of his contract with still two years to go came as something as a surprise to most Arsenal fans, myself included, who don’t pay that much attention to Watford.
It seems the main motivation behind releasing him was their relegation and the financial struggles many clubs are facing. Having left Arsenal on a free, Watford were able to load his fee into his wages and agreed to pay him £70,000-per-week. That’s £7.28m the Hornets have saved themselves over the remainder of Welbeck’s deal.
They no doubt thought his goal return did not reflect what they were paying him as one of their highest earners. The former Arsenal and Manchester United striker hit the net only three times last season. Then again, he only played 997 minutes over 20 games (just under 50 minutes per game on average). His one assist, funnily enough against Arsenal when he also scored in Watford’s final Premier League game before they were relegated, was not enough to convince the club he should stick around.
Welbeck is another whose career has been badly disrupted by injuries but he has always been a player who should have been scoring more when he did play. 73 goals and 41 assists from 331 games are the sorts of numbers you would expect to see from a top-level midfielder, not a striker.
Theo Walcott is a perfect example of a player who was over-hyped and simply failed to live up to expectations that were not his. Injuries, of course, played their part but there was a reason ‘unlucky Theo’ became the preferred outburst of many Arsenal fans when he spurned yet another chance.
We were all so enraged when Chris Waddle said that Walcott ‘doesn’t have a football brain’ but when you put tribal allegiances aside, he was on the money.
Walcott is an incredible finisher, of that there is no doubt. As long as it is instinctive. Give him time and space to think about what to do and he was more likely to fall over the ball than find the back of the net.
108 goals and 78 assists in 398 games isn’t too shabby but Walcott could, and perhaps should, have hit at least double that for Arsenal.
At Everton, it never really kicked off for him after his £20m move there in 2018. 11 goals and nine assists in 85 games was all he had to show Carlo Ancelotti who, as we know, demands more.
When Everton brought in James Rodriguez, Walcott’s time at the club seemed limited and it is now over. After his season-long loan at Southampton, Walcott will be, like Welbeck and Wilshere at present, a free agent.