Why do we have such unreasonably high expectations of a 20 year old Theo? The same goes for the 21 (just 22) year old Denilson.
How about other player’s careers aged 21? Thierry Henry at the age of 21 had scored 20 goals in 105 games for Monaco and had just been brought into the French National Squad. Robert Pires at 21 was still at Metz and struggling. Freddie was at Halmstad, Martin Keown was about to be sold to Villa and was on loan at Brighton. The great Zinedine Zidane was still at Bourdeaux and yet to break into the French team. For all of them their Glory Days were in the future, at 21 they were starting out on their careers.
Of course, Fabregas at 21 was already our best player, same goes for Liam Brady, the very great John Radford (still Arsenal’s youngest hatrick scorer) and PV4.
What separates them? Well, in my opinion it is largely different rates of development, both physical and mental. Alex Song at 20 was so poor that Arsene Wenger was forced to talk to the press and support him, saying that we couldn’t see how brilliant Song was in training and that he had a huge future. I for one, laughed. Yet at the age of 22, Song is able to go for a 50/50 ball with two Sunderland thugs and come away with the ball, and you know what, I wasn’t surprised. What does that tell me? It tells me to be patient with our players.
The same can be said of Diaby. Wenger has been raving about him for 2 seasons, now we are beginning to see what AW sees. Diaby needed time to mature, he still does because he certainly isn’t the finished article. Even Van Persie, who is a huge talent, is only coming good now he is over 25. Prior to that he only fired sporadically. Fabregas, on the other hand was ready for the first team at 18, he matured at an alarming rate, though he still lacked the physicality he has found this season. Sadly for our other young players Cesc has become the benchmark, whereas he is truly an exceptional talent.
Distance runners do not mature until their 30’s, they need that long to develop their stamina and strength, so why should we expect Walcott to be consistent for 90 (70) minutes at 20? He has shown how physically fragile his young body is, and judging from his adrenaline-fed crosses, he is lacking mental maturity as well. He cannot calmly assess a situation, perhaps he never will, but Capello and Wenger both rate him. And maybe, like many a player, he will show how good he can be in his mid-20’s (though Theo, if you are reading this, a few stand out performances before season’s end would be fine). Of course, Theo has flattered to deceive, BBC Young Personality at 17, England’s youngest hatrick hero, the youngest scorer in the u-21’s; We expect great things from him, and that is the reason the fans are getting frustrated. One aspect often raised is that Walcott has been with us for a number of years, and has played in (not started) over 70 games for us,as such it is reasonable to expect a return from him (once again the same can be said for Denilson who has also played 70+ games). But look at them, compare them to a real man (Kevin Davies/Drogba), they are boys! When I was 21, I had had a lot of experience in certain areas (!) but I certainly wasn’t mature, were you?
Defenders also take longer to mature. Their best years are after 27 (which bodes well for TV). Gallas is a better player now than at 25. We are on Clichy’s back at present (no pun intended), yet he is still only 24, young for a full back, especially one with so much experience. Again, Clichy matured so fast that we forget how young he is, he will without doubt return to the form he had 2 season’s ago – form is transient, quality isn’t.
Ramsey, Vela, Wilshire etc etc such high expectations laid upon such young shoulders. Sending Wilshire to Bolton where his reputation doesn’t put such stresses upon him is best for Little Jack, and in the long run for Arsenal. He has made prodigious leaps forward but this season has not continued his remarkable development. It could well be because his body and mind need to settle before he continues his march to greatness. Wenger clearly appreciates this and has protected him from the spotlight as much as possible, in a way that he couldn’t with Walcott.
For an example of differing rates of development just look at your school class – for those that can remember that far back – was everyone the same in terms of physical development (stop laughing at the back), or maturity (I said stop laughing !)?
Early physical maturity is the exception, though there are some fine exceptions, Samantha Fox was only 17 when she first appeared in the Sun, and as we all know, Sammy was a renowned Gooner….