Where does Theo Walcott now fit in at Arsenal?
Where does Theo Walcott now fit in at Arsenal? That is a question that Arsene Wenger, Arsenal fans and even Walcott himself must be asking themselves at this current moment in time. Realistically speaking, if you were to look at the players that Wenger has at his disposal, you would have to say that Walcott is going to struggle to get a game unless Wenger is rotating the squad or suffering with the usual injuries that plague Arsenal year in and year out.
Walcott has not progressed as was expected when he was signed by Arsenal in January 2006, and doesn’t really seem to have improved too many facets of his game in nearly a decade. Of course, that is just my opinion, but it is one I have often heard echoed by some Arsenal fans.
One of Walcott’s main issues is that he doesn’t seem to have a natural position. He has been tried as a winger, forward and striker all to varying degrees of success, but it is difficult to offer up too much of an argument to suggest that Walcott has mastered any of these positions.
One thing that cannot be contested is that Walcott is a magnificent athlete. He can run up and down the flanks for club and country with the grace of an international calibre sprinter without ever seeming to tire. There is just the lack of any end product. Walcott is not clinical enough of a finisher to deserve a starting berth at a club of Arsenal’s stature, nor does he have the passing range, trickery or crossing ability to be much of a threat down the flank. Indeed, one thing that has always struck me about Walcott is that he is one hamstring injury away from being a Championship player. You fear that once his pace starts to desert him, Walcott will be average at best.
As already mentioned above, he doesn’t seem to be in possession of any trickery on the ball. Walcott is essentially incapable of beating an opponent with anything other than kick and chase tactics. Experienced defenders in the Premier League and Champions league hate playing against rapid players, of course, but they quickly find ways of dealing with them if all they rely on is that pace.
Walcott’s best chance of a prolonged career at the top level would be to take one of two options. He can either focus on turning himself into an out and out goal scorer, or he can work on his delivery and become a useful winger.
In order to achieve the former of those two options, Walcott would need to be given a sustained run in the side as a striker. Wenger will simply not give him that opportunity, as he has shown in the past on several occasions that he can be rather wasteful in front of goal. There is always that sense with Walcott that he will need four or five chances to get you a goal. That is simply unacceptable for a striker at Arsenal, where even Giroud, Sanogo and Welbeck are more efficient with their conversation rates. That in itself should be damning enough of an indictment of Walcott’s chances of being the club’s goal getter.
Even his preferred position out wide is under threat right now. There is simply no comparison between Walcott and Alexis Sanchez, whilst players such as Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey are all far more effect than Walcott in that position, and they’re all suited to a more central role!
Walcott’s best bet would be to take the David Beckham route to success. I’m not suggesting he bag himself a Spice Girl and start walking down the King’s Road in outrageously garish outfits, but he could definitely take a leaf out of Beckham’s book with regards to practicing a particular discipline until he has well and truly mastered it. David Beckham was a magnificent crosser and passer of the ball, but that was all he was. He would practice and practice and practice until he became one of the world’s most proficient set piece takers and crosser of a ball.
Walcott must now do likewise. He needs to understand that his pace will only carry him so far. He will have to add another string to his bow, and do it quickly, if he isn’t going to be slowly phased out of top flight football via a short-lived stint at some mediocre mid-table outfit. Arsene Wenger is loyal to his players to a fault. Eventually he will either have to bite the bullet, change the habit of a lifetime and invest heavily in new players, or a new manager will come in and do so. Either way, if Walcott doesn’t make himself a more useful player soon, he won’t have much time left for club or country.
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