Theo Walcott, Legend In The Making
Today on NLIR I am pleased to welcome back guest blogger Manas Saraswat (@ManasAFC) Follow Manas!. Take it away Manas…..
Theo Walcott signing Spurs fans the score on a FA Cup night will go down as one of those moments which stick in the memory for long. Like Arsène trying to zip his coat or John Terry falling on his arse. It’s made him an instant legend if you’re a believer in those types of things. But it wasn’t just his cheek that made the fans change their opinion about him, it’s his performances and his consistency.
It wasn’t long ago that our own fans wanted to sell him because of his 100k per week wage demands, claiming that they were unjustified and he didn’t deserve it. I was one of those fans, though I never wanted him sold. He didn’t take long to prove us wrong and in hindsight I can safely say that he’s justified himself and is now an automatic starter in our squad. I remember making a remark on Twitter that if Walcott was allowed to leave in the same year as Robin van Persie, it would’ve been a bigger blow to us than actually losing RvP. Anyone who’s watched Arsenal play over the last season and a half would agree with me, in some capacity at least. Our over-reliance on Van Persie was becoming counterproductive as everything we did would go through him. Like Henry before him, the team would look to him to score the goals and dig them out from a sticky situation. Most of Theo’s assists resulted in RvP’s goals in his last year at the club and he finished the season with 8 goals and 11 assists in the PL. Not only has he been an important first team member, his role in the team is vital to the way we play.
The following season saw a greater contribution from our midfield, as Cazorla, Podolski and Theo all chipped in with goals. Theo bagged 21 goals and 19 assists, finishing as the highest scorer for Arsenal in all competitions. Over the last 3 seasons he has grown in stature at the club. From inconsistent prodigy to one of the first names on the team sheet, he gives us so much more than just what the statistics tell you. The numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. With him in the side there is a natural balance to the team, as there’s always an outlet for our creative midfielders to hit. In the 10 games he’s been injured Arsenal have deployed a midfield of 5 CMs (counting Cazorla as a CM because he rarely ever goes wide) ,with Wilshere taking it in turns to play on the left and right side of midfield. In all of those games we looked a bit too narrow and reliant on the full-backs for width, or an outlet. It is telling that we can now adapt our game to the personnel available because we’ve won 7 of those 10 games, losing 2 and drawing 1. The sublime form of Aaron Ramsey somewhat masked the absence of Theo in those times as the Welshmen was going through a great run of form.
The game against Manchester United was particularly telling, as we hardly even turned up that day. While fatigue was a major reason for defeat, the team looked bereft of ideas and a little bit of pace and movement from the right wouldn’t have gone amiss. He’s come miles on his finishing and crossing which could be quite frustrating at times, and even got him the tag of ‘lacks a footballing brain’. His movement from the right, inwards from behind the full back has caused havoc on quite a few occasions. But what he brings to the team in terms of counter-attacking and clinical-ity, as an outlet is by far our greatest weapon, especially since Arsène Wenger decided to go back to the drawing board this season and play a more counter-attacking game. This was particularly highlighted in the game versus Cardiff earlier this season, when moments after coming on he sprinted the length of pitch and setup Ramsey for our 3rd goal on the night. His hat-trick in the 7-3 win at Newcastle is also one of my personal favorites.
I also believe he’s a greater wide player than he’ll ever be a center forward. He lacks physicality for that kind of role and his ball control isn’t the greatest. He often tends to run ahead of the ball without controlling it completely. The game against Tottenham saw him deployed at CF and though his movement was fantastic in dragging the CBs away and making space for our midfielders, Spurs gave us too much room between the lines on the day. They played right into our hands. When the ball was played into him to hold up he lost it at the slightest of pressure from their defenders. His passing is also arguably not the greatest, though when you’re playing with players like Cazorla and Özil you’re bound to be a bit behind in those stats. A passing accuracy of 81.4% in the Premier League isn’t all that bad either.
It’s said that a team cannot win the Premier League without contribution from midfield and in those terms we as a club are well and truly sorted. Just ask Frank Lampard at Chelsea, or Yaya Toure at Man City or Steven Gerrard at Liverpool….wait! Manchester United are an anomaly to this theory as Van Persie’s goals won them the league but Wayne Rooney essentially played in midfield and was key for them. While all these players play mainly through the center, Theo is someone we can rely on now in a similar fashion, to score or assist almost every game. We also have the likes of Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere who all are capable of taking that burden. This season he’s already made a big impact since coming back after almost 2 months after injury and has 6 goals and 4 assists from 15 games.
He has been consistently delivering good performances for Arsenal over the last couple of seasons and has scored a lot of important goals for us. The most recent ones being his brace against West Ham in Premier League which eventually saw us win 3-1 after going a goal down. Theo Walcott, along with a few others ,is probably a guaranteed starter at Arsenal when he’s fit, and all this at the age of 24. His attitude is also something that’s not talked about enough because, well..there’s hardly anything to say there. Professional on the pitch and off it, you would hardly ever hear he’s involved in something wrong. For me he’s got everything to be one of Arsenal’s greats if he continues like this over the years.
At time of writing Theo was believed to be out for just a month but now Arsenal have confirmed that he’s out for 6 months after having ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. This is a massive blow for Arsenal as, even though we have replacements in the form of Gnabry and Oxlade-Chamberlain, neither of them provides the direct threat that Theo brings to the team, nor the clinical finishing. What’s worse is that he’ll probably/surely miss the World Cup in the summer too. Hopefully we’ll win something this season for him and for everyone associated with the club.
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