As we know, the Imps have winger Theo Archibald out on loan at Leyton Orient, and he’s doing rather well.
At a time when we’re struggling for width and creativity, the largely forgotten man from last season is experiencing a real boost in his confidence. The former Celtic and Brentford winger has four goals and three assists for the O’s, as well as a host of chances created. Excluding the FA Cup (which Wyscout oddly doesn’t include), Archibald has created 28 chances for teammates, delivered 86 crosses and executed 98 dribbles, 48% of which have been successful. Even with the caveat that this is in League Two, they are good numbers. After all, we’ve played two League Two teams in a week and they’ve both come out of those games unscathed.
As everyone will know, I’m a huge fan of Theo. I was delighted when we signed him and I think there’s a top league One player in there. I’d love to see him given another chance, but is it likely? What are the Imps options with Theo going forward?
It is my understanding Theo is contracted to Lincoln City until the summer of 2023, which means he isn’t on an ‘end of pathway’ plan, the same as Max Melbourne for instance. Max is unlikely to come back to the club with his contract up in the summer, but Theo is our player. Had he gone to Orient and flopped, perhaps he could have been told he was free to find another club, but he hasn’t; he’s been a huge success and he’s our player.
Rob Makepeace mentioned there was a recall / send back option in the contracts of all the players at the club, and my understanding is the same can be said of Theo. There’s little likelihood of Orient sending him back given his form, but could we see him recalled by the club this winter window? It’s certainly possible. Whatever the case, there are several options with Theo for the club.
Recall and Keep
The obvious option is for us to recall Theo in January and keep him as part of our squad. There’s an obvious attraction in this; Theo is playing good football and has proven his fitness and form. Even if we do sign a 7,9 and 11 as suggested, we could still do with options from the bench. After all, we don’t really have anything in those areas in the starting XI at the moment, so even bringing in three leaves us lacking real options, Haks maybe can still do a job, but if (and it is an if) we were to send N’Lundulu back, and if (a bigger if) Scully is the subject of bids, it make sense to pack our squad out with a player like Theo. After all, if he were not ours, he’s just the type of player we’d be looking at. He’s a wide attacking player, he’s doing well in League Two, he has big club experience and he’s the right age.
Recall and Sell
If we’re looking at funding deals for other players, there’s always the option of calling Theo back to sell him. Again, he’s right up there at the top of the chance creation charts in League Two, and he appears in the best XI players on Wyscouts index metrics. He’s right on top of his game at the moment, albeit in the league below, but even if we don’t see a future here for him, there will be clubs who recognise that potential. He’s only 23, hugely saleable and of value to others. If we could move him on for a six-figure sum (and why not), it would swell our own bank balance for targets. Fans would prefer to see him back here, there’s no doubt, but players are assets as well as people and Theo is a big asset right now.
Leave at Orient
The final option is to leave him at Orient. I think this is the option we’ll take if we see him as a possible first-team player next season, but who might not get games after the window closes. My gut feeling is this is the route we’ll take; we have protection in that he’s our player, but if we do sign those three players we need, he might not get game time. Would recalling him devalue our asset? After all, there are no cup games in the second half of the season, so his time on the field might be limited. If we see him as a player we want to keep, then it makes sense for him to come back with 40+ games under his belt for next season. If we did choose this option, and then a deal of our own collapsed at last minute, then we could always recall late in the window (if the clause allows for that).
Only those at the club will know the preferred course of action with Theo Archibald this winter, but he’s certainly given Michael and the team a choice to make. How often has a player gone away on loan and done well? It’s all well and good saying how Zack Elbouzedi is the one that got away, but he didn’t get a game for Bolton after he left the club on loan. Theo has certainly proven to be an able and willing wide player with a lot to offer; he’s made the most of his chance and now it’s up to us to deal with it how we see fit.