Arsenal’s Theo Walcott has emerged as a £25 million target of Europa League qualifiers West Ham United, although there is speculation that any move is dependent on Jamie Vardy signing for the Gunners from Champions Leicester City. But would a move suit Arsenal and Walcott, and more importantly, would he suit West Ham?
At 27 years of age and with first team opportunities having never been a certainty at Arsenal, perhaps this is the right time to move for Walcott. Signed from Southampton in 2006 by Arsene Wenger for his undoubted potential, it is fair to say that he has not reached the heights that were expected of him.
On the one hand, he was clearly a victim of English fans and media lumping too much pressure on his young shoulders, and his call up to the World Cup squad in 2006, whilst certainly a show of support and belief in his ability, did nothing to dampen the excitement that has surrounded Walcott since he was 17. It was inevitable that he would not be able to live up to this hype.
That said, his stats are still disappointing. In his ten years at Arsenal, Walcott has managed just 236 Premier League appearances (although it shouldn’t be a surprise that he didn’t make too many when he first signed, considering his young age), a stat that looks even less impressive when you consider that he is the club’s current longest serving player. His most productive season in terms of appearances was 2011-12 when he managed 35. This is a poor return, and points to one of Walcott’s most enduring stereotypes – that he is injury prone. Stats website transfermarkt.com shows that Walcott has missed 109 league games through injury during his time at the club.
As well as missing games through injury, he has also simply suffered from his own poor form. Despite often claiming that he would prefer to be play as a striker, Walcott has only managed 55 league goals, with the 2011-12 season again proving to be his most prolific as he scored 14 goals. His return is low, even considering that he was played primarily out wide in his early years at the club. He has played more centrally recently, and his goal tally has still been poor.
This has meant that in the past couple of years Walcott has been superseded by better players, to the point where he made few telling contributions to the team this season (Leicester City home game aside).
So the question seems done and dusted from Arsenal’s point of view; Walcott, unfortunately, has proven to not be quite up to the standard that they require. His finishing has not improved, his end product from out wide remains dreadful, and without one or the other of these attributes his pace alone gives him little cutting edge.
For Walcott as well, a move away might be beneficial. The chance (and necessity) to prove himself to a new manager and new fans might be just what he needs. West Ham are a club and a team that allow players to flourish and improve (Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Michail Antonio being just three examples of English players who have starred for the Hammers recently). West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is also a significantly different character to Arsene Wenger, and his style might also be beneficial for Walcott who is often described as being too nice.
He has also been overlooked for England’s Euro 2016 squad, a decision that left him disappointed but surely not surprised. A move to West Ham could help him revive his England career playing alongside other England hopefuls and in a team that is playing with confidence and in front of excited, rather than angry, fans.
But would Walcott’s signing be a good thing for West Ham?
He would bring the team his exceptional pace and direct running ability (although also the limitations that his final ball often brings). This could help West Ham in playing counter attacking football, which they did at times this season to devastating effect.
At the very least, the signing of Walcott would be a show of intent for West Ham, who are clearly looking to build on their successful 2015-6 season in the first season in the Olympic Stadium. Walcott would be an exciting signing and would be fine reward for the 50,000 season ticket holders the club now have.
It is easy to forget, given how long he has been around the Premier League, but Walcott is only 27, and has a number of years left in him. If Bilic and West Ham can get the best out of him, the club would have a top, top player on their hands to help lead them into a new era at the club.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal.