Is Walcott withering on the vine?

As we head into Saturday’s clash with Norwich, we’re naturally fantasizing about Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil prowling the midfield, but I’ve had another injured Gunner on my mind: Theo Walcott. Even before his injury, he’s been all but invisible, tallying but a

single goal in seven appearances, almost 600 minutes of football. It’s not as if the team has struggled to create chances, and Theo has spurned more than his fair share of them, and so a question is nagging at me: is there room in this squad for Theo? It’s an odd question to pose, given how optimistic I’ve been with him in the past, suggesting he’ll go for 20 goals in the Prem this year or that he’d see a surge akin to Gareth Bale’s last season. I really thought that this would be a season that saw Theo finally become the goal-scorer we’ve been waiting for since he joined the club in 2006. As it currently stands, however, he may soon be the second-best player we’ve signed from Southampton in recent years.

Of course, it’s not that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is better than Theo, but the Ox’s development and untapped potential seem far vaster than Theo’s, who seems to have stagnated. There have been moments when he’s reminded us of Henry loping down the flank and curling a shot past a splayed keeper to the far post, but that’s all those have been—moments. Even these haven’t been pitch-perfect, as Theo’s shots have squibbed under the keeper or glanced off the keeper’s palm instead of floating past outstretched hands and tucking in to the back of the net. Some of his moments have been fantastic, of course, such as his I-fell-but-it’s-not-a-foul-so-I’ll-get-up-and-score against Chelsea (and again against Newcastle), but he’s still far too anonymous. While his pace can be an important contribution even if he’s not scoring (such as against Norwich last year, when he seemed to stretch their defense out of shape and create openings for teammates to score three goals shorty after he came on as a sub). He’s only 24, so it’s not as if that pace is going to degrade soon, but the larger concern is that pace seems to be the only asset he really has to offer.

Given the depth we now have across midfield, I don’t know if we can afford to throw on such a limited attacker when it means that a more-versatile if less-seasoned player is available. We’ve seen glimpses of what Gnabry and the Ox can do, of course, and they’re still works in progress—but, then again, so is Theo, it seems. When everyone is fully fit, Arsène also has Cazorla, Podolski, Özil, Rosický, and Wilshere, and while not all of them is best-deployed as a winger, they’re all very versatile, and their fluidity and creativity make it harder to see where Theo’s chances would come. It’s arguable that our best midfield has Wilshere playing centrally with Cazorla and Özil wide. The three of them buzzing (or in Özil’s case, floating) around the midfield certainly inspire more confidence in me than seeing Walcott waiting around on the flank to run onto a through-ball.

If he can come back from his injury and regain his form, that might change things a bit. However, even on his best days, he may not be the best option. These feel to me like harsh words, considering how much of a cheerleader I’ve been to him, but as one wag put it after seeing the Arsenal Ladies hang eleven goals on CSHVSM-Kairat, “look what a team without Walcotts can do.” This is not to say that we do score more without Walcott, but we certainly haven’t had trouble scoring in his absence. More seriously, we are going to need Walcott to find his form soon, as November and December offer a sadistic meat-grinder of matches. Even if he’s “only” appearing in relief against inferior opponents so as to rest current first-choice teammates, I would love nothing more than to see the Theo who tore Newcastle apart last December do the same against, say, Crystal Palace or Hull. Heck, if netting a few can give him some momentum and confidence to do the same against Chelsea or Man City, so much the better.

Right. We have Norwich tomorrow. Walcott or not, these are three points we should really seize, so I hope we’ll see Özil and Cazorla together at last, if only for a half. Until next time, thanks for your visit. Before you go, please consider voting for Woolwich 1886 in the Football Blogging Awards’ “best new blog” category. You can click here to here to vote via twitter or here to receive an email ballot. Thanks!

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15 thoughts on “Is Walcott withering on the vine?

  1. Anonymous

    I personally think that Walcott has a role to fulfill in this squad, but is a little too much like a blunt instrument in Wenger's team of technical artists. T

  2. Anonymous

    Your too caught up on the glory of goals my friend. You fail to mention the amount of assists he has already tallied up this season, I believe it is 4 in all competitions. You also don't see the intangibles he bring as his pace and slanting runs forces the opposing fullback and even the center back to play more conservative and favor Theo's side of the field leaving the middle of the park more open. Get it together man.

  3. Anonymous

    Ohh my god, how fickle minded Arsenal fans are, so sad they dont appreciate what they have got…always trying to screw the players playing for them. Tried to destroy Ramsey, now everything changed. Just wishing for Theo to bloom and zoom past defenders. Just wishing for Arsene to give him the feeling and confidence to make him understand, hez a devastating player who didnt just get his due.

  4. Anonymous

    On one hand, you're right. His four assists have been important, no doubt. On another, I did point out that his pace can stretch defenses. My larger point, though, is that I would like to see more scoring from him (and I don't think this is a misplaced or overemphasized priority). I worry that the absence of goals will start to undermine his confidence, and he, perhaps more than most, needs that confidence.

  5. Anonymous

    It pains, really does, to read such articles as this about Theo Walcott. When he joined from Southampton, nobody was expecting a Pele, Maradona or Messi..none truly expected another Henry either. Arsene Wenger, an apostle of counter attacking play, saw a genius in the speed department and promptly invested.For whatever it is worth, I'm sure Wenger is a happy man regarding what Walcott is today. Theo is the fastest footballer presently on the planet. Contrary to poor opinions, Theo is not just about pace. He's a great finisher and extremely intelligent when timing his runs – hardly ever caught in the offside position, If there's one Arsenal player Barcelone never wishes to play against, it's Walcott…ask Pep Guardiola!Theo might have let down this season in area of finishes off but then has Robin van Persie. Take away PK goals and Persie hasn't really been worth his paycheck this season. Walcott has used his excellent timing and pace to have scored at least six times this season but even Messi misses sitters!Now, mark my words – Walcott will be the biggest beneficiary of Ozil's wizardry in spotting openings. The sleekly German has played three fruitful seasons with Christiano Ronaldo in Madrid and understands perfectly the release clause of forwards with blistering paces. It's just seven matches gone in the season…and Theo has only played in four! Give him a breathing space….he'll end up Arsenal's highest goal scorer this season. Place a bet if you doubt!

  6. Anonymous

    “Devastating” might stretch it a bit, but he could be very good for us if he can find some form. To be honest, though, he's struggled to produce at a level that we need from him. I don't mean to bash him; in fact, I want him to succeed!

  7. Anonymous

    haha, blunt instrument. i think you're right, he's not technical enough, his first is so clumsy and he's so wasteful!

  8. Anonymous

    Hi Jon, i have just one question for you. Can you please mention just one Right-footed player that plays from Theo's wing and has outscored Theo in the last 3 seasons…..You tend to forget that its harder for him to score from that angle, while is best option is to pull back for an assist. All the Riberys, Ronaldos, Villas, Hazards will always come in from the left while all the Messis, Robbens, Sturrides will always come from the right….Please, if u can't answer the question, that means we've currently got the best player in that wing in the World….case closed!My first time of commenting tho…silent reader.

  9. Anonymous

    Very true; I wonder if his right foot might be more effective coming from the left, the better to take advantage of the natural curl? There are plenty of these inverted wingers, like Robben or Di Maria or Messi (lefties who play on the right). The best are adept with both feet (Ronaldo, Ribery, etc.). When Theo is in-form, you're right; he's among the best wingers around. My concern is that he hadn't shown us much of that before going down. I hope he does come back and dispel my doubts , over and over and over…Thanks for commenting!

  10. Anonymous

    I've watched him taking the natural curl a few times…but i don't think he has the Agility and Movement to come from that Left wing…. That right is still his best, he just needs to put more effort and improve with his skill, so that he can dispel ur doubts over and over and over again….lolz….By the way, great win today…i can't stop watching that Wilshere's goal. #AwesomeMove

  11. Anonymous

    That goal is goal-of-the-season! I don't even want to call it Wilshere's goal because it involved Cazorla and Giroud so much. Wow… As to Theo, he's shown that he can finish with the left, but it's not intuitive or incisive enough to be a go-to finish for him. At this point, moving him left might be too much of a change. If he could maybe learn to turn his run across the box (moving laterally) and finish with the outside of his right, he could be on to something. Ozil, who uses his left foot in a similar fashion when passing (sending in crosses that curl back away from goal and into a teammate's run) might have words of wisdom to offer in that regard…


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