Arsenal Want £26m Striker To Compete With Giroud
A mobile, pacy striker with an eye for goal is top of many Arsenal supporters’ wish lists this summer and Arsenal are working hard to make this happen…. although their primary target may not be quite what some had hoped for.
On Saturday Arsène Wenger made the call to keep with Premier League hat-trick hero, Theo Walcott, in attack over Olivier Giroud (statistically one of the best strikers in the league) in Arsenal’s second successive FA Cup final. The move paid dividends. Aston Villa had no answer to the movement and pace of Theo Walcott and it was he who opened the scoring.
It can be argued his goal won the cup as everything that came after it was wonderful gloss. Aston Villa never looked like scoring and Theo’s goal alone was enough to win the cup – although it can be said the goals from Alexis and Mertesacker killed off all hopes of a comeback.
Theo Walcott had been written off as an Arsenal starter and was tipped to be on his way out this summer. That may still be the case, with just one year left on his contract, but Arsenal and Wenger will do all they can to ensure he stays with rumours circulating they are attempting to convince Theo to commit to a 5 year contract worth a whopping £26m.
Media whispers, said to emanate from the Walcott camp, suggest Theo wants assurances over his positional future and game time. In most games, Theo Walcott – on paper – would lose out to Olivier Giroud but if there were to be a tweak in formation we may see them playing together. For now it seems the current formation, 4-1-4-1 and its variance of 4-3-3, is preferred by Wenger and that means a straight choice between Theo and Olivier – and as we all know well from the FIFA games, football isn’t played on paper.
Some are skeptical about Theo’s suitability to play as the lone striker and are doubtful of his abilities to become the elusive 30 goal a season striker so yearned for.
As a feature when shopping for a new striker I believe fixed goal targets to be slightly arbitrary. Giroud is not a 30 goal a season striker however I believe his presence yields more than that. Theo would yield similar results to Giroud but in a different way. I think with Theo we would see a higher individual goal return and a slightly lower involvement in build-up play.
Theo’s technical ability is sometimes questioned as lone striker because of build-up play and whilst his involvement in building play is not to the level of Giroud it is a facet of his game that is largely underrated.
Take Theo’s cup final goal for example, Walcott started the move and had the intelligence to let play develop before arriving in the box at just the right moment. Despite aspersions cast to the contrary, Theo has an acute, agile footballing brain and is far more tactically intelligent than he is credited for. How else could he make such devastating runs and drag defenders out of position?
Walcott was getting more time through the middle when tragedy struck in the FA Cup game against Spurs in 2014 that kept him out for the best part of a year. It can take almost as much time for a player to mentally recover from such a lay off. If Walcott’s recent form is anything to go by we can expect much more from him starting around next January – perfect for the title run in.
As a lone striker in the past it was far too easy to push Walcott off the ball and as such he wasn’t really a viable option but he seems to have gained some upper body strength during his lay off. Walcott’s hold-up play will never be as good as Giroud or Welbeck’s but that is offset by a change in tactics – and at any rate, his hold up play has massively improved due to his new strength. Strength that so benefits smaller strikers like Sergio Aguero.
In the past it was easy for opposition defenders to occupy Walcott and nullify our attacks but with the movement, intelligence and threat of Alexis, Özil and Cazorla it is no longer an issue. Should Theo draw defenders’ attention as they attempt to nullify him he creates space for Alexis and should the defenders be foolish enough to try to stop both threats Theo’s pace, movement and finishing will devastate them.
It was no surprise to the Walcott fans out there to see him look our most threatening player when coming on as a substitute against in the final few games of the season and even less of a surprise to see him score a hat-trick on his first Premier League start in goodness knows how long and then to score in a cup final – I have written many articles containing the phrase “Theo starts, Theo scores” because he does.
Theo is an effective substitute when brought on early enough but in general he is much more threatening from the start. 13 goals in his last 14 starts is an impressive statistic and maybe highlights what many have seem to forgetten – pre-injury he was our greatest goal threat.
I believe Walcott to be our greatest goal threat now – even with Alexis in the team – because he is exactly the type of player we all say Özil desperately needs. We should all remember that these two players have never had the opportunity to play together for an extended time and still need to build an understanding. An added bonus of Theo signing a new contract and taking his rightful place as a centre-forward is the increase assist statistics for Özil which may in turn improve his rating among the fans which is *cliche alert* criminally low.
Should Podolski officially leave Arsenal this summer then Theo Walcott becomes the best finisher at the club. Statistics are never quite accepted by those whom they disprove but if you are willing to use stats to open your mind to watching Theo more closely and with as little bias as possible they will help convince you we have, potentially, one of the most lethal players in the league in our ranks.
Theo has, on average, over the past three seasons (with injuries) a 63% shot accuracy which is incredibly high (75% this season). Higher than any top level striker in the Premier League you can name. His shots are more often than not (blocks excluded) on target. We all reveled in the goal scoring exploits of Van Persie before he displayed his quisling nature but his shot accuracy was lower than Walcott’s average at 58% whilst Drogba’s best scoring season came from an accuracy level of just 47%.
Walcott’s average conversion rate of 23% (25% this season) is also better than Van Persie’s 21%, Suarez’s 22.9% of last season and Drogba’s 20% proving that top scorers aren’t always huge converters. Aguero doesn’t even make the top 10 this season and Giroud is a shade behind Costa at 28%.
With the quality of player we have in midfield someone with Theo’s attributes should have no problem racking up the goals and if Welbeck, Walcott and Alexis start we have an incredibly fluid front three who can seamlessly interchange.
Walcott is not just an accurate striker, he also possesses a range of finishes that defies the misconception he is just a sprinter with football boots on. He can curl them in, left foot and right, he can find the angle, shoot from distance, volley them in, shoot across goal, go near post, far post, high, low and toe poke a few in for good measure too.
Few strikers out there can offer what Theo can and finding one to buy with a club willing to sell could be quite protracted. We would all love Arsenal to wrap up their transfer business early this summer and get a full preseason under their belts so why not look at internal solutions? Coquelin has proven since he returned from Charlton that not all problems have to be solved with external buys.
Theo Walcott is Premier League ready, a proven goalscorer, fast, deadly accurate and entering his prime. We all want someone to compete with Giroud and offer us something different. Theo Walcott is that something different and if he was playing somewhere else we’d all be calling for Wenger to buy him.
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