Arsenal and Tottenham are set to be a part of the battle at the top of the Premier League this coming season, but right now, they’re facing off for one of England’s top prospects.
According to the Daily Mail, the two North London rivals are at the front of the queue for young Ipswich striker Connor Wickham. According to the report, Tottenham have already seen a £5m bid rejected, but they’ve come in with an offer of £8m. Their interest could prompt Arsenal, who are also tracking the rising star, to make their own concrete offer.
The 17-year-old Wickham was a star for the England U-17 squad in May’s European championships, as he helped lead England to the title in Liechtenstein. In the semifinals against France, he scored both goals in a 2-1 win, and he followed that up by scoring what proved to be the winner in a 2-1 win over Spain in the final.
On club level, Wickham saw regular first-team appearances for Roy Keane’s side last season, making nine league starts and 26 league appearances overall. He was in the starting lineup for Ipswich’s last five matches last season, and he took advantage of the opportunity, scoring three goals. All told, he tallied four league goals and an assist, and he scored twice in a Carling Cup tie against Shrewsbury in August.
Ipswich currently value Wickham at £10m, which is a steep price to pay for a 17-year-old who only has 29 Championship appearances to his credit. But for what it’s worth, a 16-year-old Theo Walcott only had made 23 Championship appearances when Arsenal snapped him up in January 2006, and injuries notwithstanding, he’s proven to be worth their early investment. So it’s safe to say that Arsene Wenger won’t shy away from spending money on a talented youngster, and it’s clear that Harry Redknapp, who‘s also renowned for his abilities to evaluate and develop young talent, has no qualms about it either.
Given Ipswich’s sticky financial situation, they might be a lot more willing to listen to an offer that‘s a little less, and not just because of the cash injection it would provide.
As it stands, Wickham is set to be a key part of Roy Keane’s plans, and that might not change even if he’s snapped up by a bigger club this summer, as Tottenham would loan Wickham back to Ipswich for next season.
Whether Wickham moves to Tottenham or Arsenal, such an option would be the best thing for his development. Instead of being placed in the reserves or in an academy team, by starting regularly for Ipswich, he‘d be able to hone his skills alongside and against players who‘ve played at the highest levels, not to mention for a manager who accomplished as much as a player as Keane did. And with the Carling Cup and FA Cup in mind, he could gain some experience against Premier League competition.
Where will Wickham be plying his trade next season? That remains to be seen, but it bears watching, because whoever lands him will be getting one of the future stars of English football.