It appears that opinion on Theo Walcott divides supporters more than any other player – so much so that we’ve received 2 posts on Theo today giving opposing views on his worth to Arsenal. So should he stay or should he go? … have a read through both sets of arguments and cast your vote at the end. Ed
Arsenal’s biggest problem – Theo Walcott
After both the Brighton and Aston Villa games I was vocal in criticising Theo, I promised a post to explain why he was driving me to distraction so here it is.
Alan Hansen once claimed Theo didn’t have a football brain, this was along time ago and has since been proven wrong, however there is definitely a case to argue that he plays better on instinct than when he has to think about it. Take a look at the best goals he scores, when he is reacting under pressure he is far better than others, his quick feet and good shot come to the fore. When he has time to pick a spot in acres of space he can be wasteful.
But this isn’t his problem right now. I don’t think it’s a question of footballing brain but more one of footballing ego, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of arrogance on the pitch and belief in one’s own ability, but there is if it leads you to play in a way that is detrimental to the team.
In my view against both Brighton and Villa he was guilty of the latter, after his early goal against Brighton and the teams early goal against Villa he seemed to be appearing in the centre of the pitch far more than he should and it was forcing others to shift position. Against Villa this caused is to have a very poor hour in front of their goal. Having just watched the MOTD highlights this was confirmed by all our efforts on goal coming when Theo was staying wide, I remember several moments in the first half and one spell in particular where Theo was taking a more central position and our attacks lacked the cutting edge, not only that that but it caused us issues in the other direction. I don’t have a problem with our attack being fluid, but if the wrong players play in the wrong position I do.
Can’t play with back to goal
Theo is simply not physically suited to playing with his back to goal, he is always better running at goal, when he plays central he has to be able to receive the ball to feet under pressure from a centre back and quickly play a pass to an advancing midfielder or wide man.
I don’t think Theo has the best attributes to do this.
Making unselfish runs
When he has done the back to goal thing he has to be prepared to drag his marker away from goal and create space for others.
Against Brighton and Villa he did the first bit, but his next move was towards goal, which in turn made the area more congested as midfielders were trying to run into the space.
I think Theo’s presence centrally is mainly a selfish one to be amongst more goals so I don’t think he will prepared to run away from the goal as both Giroud and Welbeck do when they have played there.
One way to score
When Giroud plays as holdup man his next movement as well as dragging defenders out also presents a concern for defenders, his aerial ability means he can drift to the back post be on hand for a lofted ball or make an angle to be played into feet (especially if he is left side of goal) to score from a cut back. Theo can only really offer the latter. Which again makes us easy to defend against.
Effecting the opponents defensive line
By playing up top Theo’s biggest threat to opposition is a ball over the top, clever centre backs will drop off ten to twenty yard to nullify this, which in turn makes it more difficult to get the midfield and wide men bursting past the line, it also means if playing one of our wide men is Giroud who doesn’t have the burst of pace to offer a threat in the channels.
When Giroud is up top defenders have to mark him higher up the pitch to try and win the ball back earlier. And it means we have pace on the flanks.
Opponents full backs are released
One of the biggest problems is what it does to our balance defensively. With Giroud forced to play wide left or right by Theo’s change of position the opposition full backs are less worried about pushing on and leaving space behind them. Once Giroud has dropped in the full back knows he doesn’t have to be too wary, so can commit fully to his teams attack, which on Sunday afternoon resulted in balls into our box from two angles. If Theo sits wide then he can win the game of chicken with the full back as very few will back themselves in a foot race against our whippet.
As you can hopefully now see I manor criticising Theo for rustiness or skill set he has many good attributes that if used to the full can result in the goal he scored against Villa or Ozil’s goal our second against Villa.
Picking up the ball deep he had got past the midfield line in a flash and was laying the ball onto Giroud before the Villa defence knew what was happening.
His goal came from receiving the ball from Ospina on the left, and motoring at pace playing the ball to Santi and then intercepting the through ball destined for Giroud who had himself pulled wide creating a gaping hole for Theo to run into.
If Theo plays wide and stays wide until the gaps open up he can be lethal, particularly if working in tandem with Alexis on the other flank.
Writing this post I started to ask myself whether in fact it was Giroud and not Theo that was the problem, but after more consideration I decided not, I think the same would be true if Welbeck, Akpom or Sanogo were available to play up top. And I think what Olivier gives us is a plan A and B on the pitch from the start, take away some of his effectiveness by changing his position and we start to become one dimensional and dare I say it tippy tally again as defences drop deep scared of pace in behind.
When discussing both Ramsey and Coquelin in interviews this season Arsene has talked around the subject of best for the team or best for the player, Ramsey’s desire to get on the scoresheet was creating issues with the rest of the midfield, Coquelin he said had been signed as a ball winner but had begun to believe he was more a box to box player, he is beginning to play like a ball winner again and the team benefits. It’s what I believe makes Alexis such a huge asset and why he has been so instrumental this season, he is prepared to do what’s best for the team and knows how to get the best out of himself.
On Sunday our attack stagnated after our first goal primarily for me due to the positions Theo was taking up centrally, second half he stayed wider longer and was rarely seen waiting for the ball centrally, and suddenly we started scoring again. Time for Theo to use his attributes in the best way for the team, let’s face it we have plenty of options and if he wants the shirt regularly he will have to be a bit more like Alexis and a little bit less like Thierry in his last season.
Gooner in Exile
Theo Walcott – Sell him in the summer
What has changed over the past couple of months which has led to Arsenal fans being positive; something highly unlikely just 12 games ago? In my opinion even if the forces of evil fluke a win in the NLD we will still have a strong finish to our campaign.
The most obvious reason is the return to fitness of many of the most important members of the squad. We have been missing automatic starters in our first 11 – Ramsey, Ozil, Koscielny, Giroud and Walcott; their return inevitably improves our performances. We have seen the surprise arrivals of Bellerin and Coquelin and although I do not see Coq as a long term solution I would love to be proved wrong.
Ospina seems to be an admirable keeper and made couple of fine saves last weekend. Having kept 3 clean sheets he could be a key improvement in the defence. We have also seen a massive improvement in Monreal – that he keeps England’s best LB out of the team is evidence of his fine form.
Many say the reason for our upswing in form is a return to sensible defending but in my humble opinion the biggest difference is in the way we attack and in particular the return of Ozil. Ozil is world class, not Rooney world class but proper world class – Iniesta world class. Who else in the PL could have conceived and executed the flick pass to OG on Sunday? The answer is nobody.
Alexis is an automatic starter in any Arsenal team, as is Giroud who has become (very surprisingly) a quality CF – maybe the best in the PL. You may scoff but look at the assists he makes (sunday for Ozil, the flick for Wilshire’s goal of the season etc etc), OG is not a battering ram he is an intelligent striker.
And then there is Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain both of whom deserve consideration thanks to their excellence this season.
And what about Theo?
The man is due to enter contract negotiations this summer. Last time he had us over a barrel as we had just lost Cesc, this time it will be different. I love Theo, he is a wonderful chap and a vastly improved player. He has developed his tactical awareness and makes superb off-the-ball runs. He has toughened up and is able to ride the vicious tackling his pace attracts. He scores goals. But is he good enough to keep either Ox or Welbz out the team, and even if he is the front 6 is surely Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Alexis, Ozil and Giroud.
Should Arsenal pay over €100k a week for someone who is effectively a super-sub?
Of course we should. It is madness to suggest Walcott should leave. Arsenal have invested many millions and almost a decade into the lad. He has to stay. Furthermore, Walcott is, at present, our best right side attacker. If the Ox is to force his way into the team it has to be at the expense of someone else and we are entering a period where there will be no established first 11.
We have yet to see the magic of the Ozil/Walcott combination but we saw glimpses of it on Sunday and it looked lethal, Add in the astonishing power and vision of Sanchez and the mouth waters.
Another reason to spend a pile of Wallmart dollars to keep Walcott is tied to our squad depth and why we need such a squad. The next decade will see Arsenal dominate the PL, Europe and the World. We will need quality throughout the squad to the point where no-one will have a guaranteed starting place. Just look at the squad AW is building, in every position we have a quality back-up and what is more they are almost all young men under 25.
TPIG, Bellerin, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshire, Coq, Welbz, Akpom, Ox, Gnabry, Biedel, Jenks, Sanogo, Campbell are all under 25. Theo and Alexis are just 26!! World domination is around the corner IF Mr Wenger can keep this large squad happy and at Arsenal.
Walcott is an important member of our squad and must be persuaded of his value to The Arsenal. He has been at Arsenal for 9 years, let’s have another 3.
n.b. Post inspired after listening to Tim Stillman assuring us Theo will be sold in summer.
written by Big Raddy