The Curious Case of Theo Walcott

Fabian Odhiambo

Theo James Walcott. Nobody in football gives me sleepless nights and agonizingly long days than this Arsenal and England attacker.

Now you notice I’ve referred to him as ‘attacker’ and not specifically as a striker or forward or winger or wide-man. Technically he could fit all those terms in their definitions. You may wonder about the sleepless nights and long days and ask why. Well, for starters, the fact that I go back and forth in the different roles he plays (or could play) is testament of the above. So I’ve decided to try and set the record straight on the matter.

Walcott was signed by Arsenal in 2006, as a raw talented speedy 16 year old. He however rose to fame about six months later when he was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Erickson’s final England squad for the World Cup in Germany. Personally I remember I was surprised, thrilled, but confused more than anything. Even among friends we’ve discussed and analyzed this development unending. Many are the school hours which were otherwise spent online or reading newspaper articles about this Theo Walcott boy. The fact that he had made the England squad without even having played a first team match for Arsenal meant he was special, exceptional even. Or at least I thought so.

He never made an appearance at the World Cup, but the next season would herald his entrance into the Arsenal fold. At this point I’ve got to mention that I have a liking for strikers, people whose job is actually to put the ball in the net. When Theo was signed from Southampton, the headline was ‘Arsenal sign 16-year old Striker’, so naturally I was eager to see him in action. Strangely enough, Wenger would play him as a right winger, or wide right as they like to say. “Well, that’s midfield, right? But he’s a striker! How now?” were my exact thoughts at the time and they’ve stayed on till now.

In the first league match of the 2006-2007 season, Theo came to Arsenal’s rescue to provide the assist for Gilberto’s equalizer to avert what would have been an embarrassing defeat against Aston Villa in the Emirates’ maiden premier league match. The boy was good. He would then go on to score his first Arsenal goal in the Carling Cup final defeat against Chelsea. Not a bad debut season by all standards.

Fast forward to now. The new league season is roughly just 3 weeks away and Arsenal are stepping up their preparations in their Tour of Asia. All is not well though. The captain, Robin Van Persie, scorer of 30 league goals last season has publicly stated that he will not be signing a new contract with the club. Barring a miraculous turn-around, he will not be wearing the cannon shirt again.

Then there’s Theo Walcott, who was second to Robin in the goal scoring stakes for the club. He, like the departing captain is in the last year of his contract and speculation all over the media is rife that he too may well be on his way out. He’s only 23 year old, but with the way things have been happening at Arsenal in recent time, it won’t be surprising if he left.

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Question is, should Walcott leave the club? Are we better off without him? Many times when I go to bed late (very late) at night I’ve often tried to answer this, to no avail. Last season was easily Theo’s best ever in his time at the club, yet I felt he was utterly rubbish at times. In fact more than half the season I felt that he was just an unproductive speed merchant who was wasting space for someone like Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Then at times I would raise my arms in the air and thank the gods, wherever they may be for gifting us such a player.

Yes, I know I’m contradicting myself and I hate it. Take for instance the derby against Spurs at the Emirates last season. If there’s a game that clearly brought out all my feelings about the player, this one nailed it thoroughly. In the first half he had me screaming my voice hoarse thanks to his nonchalant and profligate display so much that at half time I was literally baying for his blood. God! He got on my nerves! Then funny enough at the end of the second half there I was giving him a standing ovation thanks to his two brilliant finishes. Even the guys seated around me at the pub looked at me curiously and wondered in bemusement. This guy must be mad, I’m sure they thought or mumbled so. I wouldn’t blame them.

Recently I got from a friend the DVD review of the 2007-2008 Arsenal season. Remember, the season when we played the best football we’ve ever played since the Invincibles season but spectacularly (and typically) faltered after Eduardo’s nasty leg break? Yes, that one. I’ve watched it a couple of times and by God, I swear Walcott was a better footballer then than he is now. Granted, he got limited opportunities, but some of his displays were just jaw-dropping. Debatable, you say? That’s fine.

Thing is, he delivered in the grandest of stages and overall his hunger was visible. I quite didn’t see that last season. And that, to be precise is why he frustrates me so much. It’s like he’s not progressing at all, like he thinks he has tried hard enough. In all honesty, Theo Walcott should be a much better player now than he currently is. He has so much weaponry in his armor of skills that it is annoying, frustrating and disgusting even that he does not try as hard to make them pay-off on the pitch.

Then again there’s one important factor. Walcott is being played out position and always has been. And it’s killing him. Theo Walcott is NOT a winger. He is a striker, preferably a center forward. Or rather, that’s what he ought to be. Rumor has it that in the contract negotiations (are they even on?) apart from demanding a hefty pay rise (does he warrant it?), he’s pushing for a more central role in Arsenal’s attack. I feel him. He knows that he’ll never be as good as he could be if Wenger keeps sticking him wide on the right against burly full backs who have studied him inside out. I know that too, and so does Arsene. I’ve always believed that we’re in the era of inverted wingers (or wide men).

Now, Theo is not as technically gifted as required for him to play wide left (or at least he has not shown it). Chamberlain is better suited for that. On the other hand Theo’s finishing has not yet warranted a center forward role, but really what do you expect when you’re constantly played wide right?

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Theo has one important ingredient of great strikers that most strikers do not have: pace. Devastating pace to be precise, pace capable of destroying to shreds any defence in the world. It is not surprising that Lionel Messi described Walcott as the most dangerous player he’s ever played against. That coming from possibly the greatest footballer of all time is not a joke. The guy has to be good. I’m going to be bold and say, if Robin leaves, Theo should be our main center forward. He may not be the best yet, but he will get there.

Arsenal should do all they can to persuade him to extend his stay. I may not agree with this at times, but it is the right thing to do (for now, at least). If Wenger can’t assure him of a central role, Walcott should respectfully say ‘Thank you sir, but I’ll try my luck elsewhere” and quietly walk away. I wouldn’t begrudge him, and neither should the fans. We don’t want another Arshavin situation, do we?

Walcott has Thierry Henry’s iconic no.14 jersey. He was meant to be like legendary Frenchman. It’s now high time the club fast-tracked that. Come on, Mr. Wenger; make our Theo our main man. It’s our time to help him and realize his dream.

By Fabian Odhiambo (@IlFabiano)

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6 Comments

  1. vincent

     /  July 27, 2012

    bro u tried in analizing a simple fact. I wish u r in d position of arsene wenger, i tell u u’ll do even much better.thanks i feel ur flows

    Reply
  2. Nasra

     /  July 27, 2012

    Nice article man . Agree with almost everything you said . Walcott has no footballing skill , no composure , can’t shoot , can’t cross and has zero consistency . I’ve personally called him ‘useless ‘ many times . But the guy has scored 22 goals and provided alot of assists . Not too bad for someone with no intelligence on the pitch . Having said that I don’t think Theo is worth the 100k he’s along for , but in circumstance should we sell him . He can’t get any worse , he’s 23 and I don’t wanna see him hit the peak at another club .

    Reply
  3. Nasra

     /  July 27, 2012

    *in no circumstance

    Reply
  4. Good try bro…………… I agree with most of the things you said. I love and work with Stats and Theo’s stats last season shows he could only get better. While I wouldn’t like him to leave (especially if RVP left), I don’t agree with you he should be our main man upfront. We have proven strikers in Podolski and Giroud who can and should take up the mantle if RVP leaves.

    One of the things I think we miss at Arsenal is a coach’s flexibility. Arsene Wenger is no flexible coach, he’s stubborn and adamant with his tactics. If only we could utilize Walcott’s pace at the centre when the need arises and leave him on the wings against Susceptible full-backs, then I think we’ll be using the Englishman well. Walcott looks isolated & ineffective in some matches when played on the wing, if I were Wenger, I’d switch him over to the centre immediately to see if he’d get some space to exploit.

    Reply
  5. Nasra

     /  July 27, 2012

    Playing Theo as a lone striker would be disastrous to say the least

    Reply
  6. Dedow

     /  July 28, 2012

    I thnk Wenger shld gve him the chance of being ur Main Man, bt thn again I thnk Giroud shld jus b another RVP!

    Reply

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