Arsenal Depot

A depository for musings on Arsenal FC

The Aspiring Central Striker: Starring Theo Walcott

It’s a good time to be an Arsenal fan as both results and performances have been commendable so far this season. The games are coming thick and fast too, which is always desirable when you’re on a good run of form. It also keeps the team focused on what happens on the pitch rather than the goings-on off it.

One of those off-pitch matters is the Theo Walcott contract saga. Arsene Wenger has taken an unusually tough stance in the stand-off, hinting that Walcott might not see much football unless he signs an extension soon. Now, Theo has spoken of his desire to remain at the club.

I’m not the sort of person that goes after the money. It is all about the football, I have always made decisions about the football.

It is a case of having trust in me up front. I was signed as a striker and it is about time, I want to play up front. I have learnt my game on the wing. When you look at what I did last year I think I can do even more. Hopefully I will be given the opportunity. I am desperate for it.

After the money-chasing antics of Nasri and Van Persie, I am reluctant to take seriously any footballer’s view that money is not one of their top priorities. And without painting all footballers with the same brush as those two, it’s hard to believe a contract negotiation can take six months or more to conclude if it’s not related to financial terms.

That aside, Theo’s comments on his desire to play as a central striker are very interesting. They suggest the youngster has always seen himself playing through the middle for Arsenal. But with the Gunners employing a lone striker up front in recent seasons, Theo’s chances of starting games as the main man were always remote.

Like Gervinho, Walcott’s decision-making and final ball have been criticized heavily. In the past, Theo has been labelled a footballer without a brain and as an athlete who wears football boots. In my opinion, both comments are over the top but they do point to the fact that besides the threat of pace, Walcott has struggled to add another dimension to his game.

But with Arsenal short of recognised central strikers this season, this is Theo’s best chance to stake a claim for a starting role up front. I can understand his present frustration when the manager has seemingly handed that chance to Gervinho. It’s a case of which came first – Walcott’s resistance to sign a new contract forcing Wenger to seek other solutions or Arsene’s reluctance to play Walcott as a central striker forcing Theo’s stand-off.

Or simply that Arsene Wenger believes Walcott isn’t good enough to lead the line at Arsenal. And for good reasons. Walcott neither has the physique nor the hold-play essential in today’s centre-forwards. And unlike Gervinho, Theo’s movement off the ball isn’t good enough to engender belief in his ability to pull defenders away and create space for teammates.

At best, Walcott might play as a second striker off the shoulder of Olivier Giroud. With his pace and instinctive finishing in the area, the 23-year old could benefit from knock-downs and make Arsenal’s counter-attacking threat even more potent. But with Cazorla doing such a fabulous job in that role at the moment, it’s difficult to make a case for Walcott to start in that role ahead of the Spaniard.

The other major issue with Walcott is his defensive contribution and work-rate. All too often last season, Arsenal were caught out down the right-hand side as Theo Walcott’s inability to track back allowed the opposition a run at the right-back. When you look at how disciplined, organised and hardworking Arsenal have been on the flanks this season, it’s hard to justify Theo’s inclusion into the team purely on the threat of his pace.

As much as I hate to admit it, perhaps it’s time for Walcott and Arsenal to part ways. At another club that plays a 4-4-2 system relying on a tall centre-forward and a pacy second striker combining, Walcott might still find success in his preferred role. Not many top teams play that system though so while he aspires for that role at Arsenal, his chances of securing a similar position at a top four club are slim. And unlike Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie before him, Theo Walcott hasn’t shown enough quality to warrant Arsenal, or any other club, building a team around the Englishman’s strength.

Then again, never say never. There’s a likelihood Theo will play centrally against Coventry City tomorrow night and while his output against League One opposition might not be a true indication of his potential as a centre-forward, it may provide a clue to the Arsenal future of one aspiring central striker.

Until tomorrow.

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14 thoughts on “The Aspiring Central Striker: Starring Theo Walcott

  1. kwadosky on said:

    If playing upfront is Theo’s problem,then I think that Wenger should give that chance.

    • Aussie Jack on said:

      Yes, I have to agree, give him a chance but my feeling is Wenger already knows he can`t cut the mustard. Let`s see if that chance is against Coventry, it won`t prove he`s a centre forward but on the other hand it could prove he`s not.

    • He has been given several times, especially 2010/11 when van Persie was warming hospital beds, it all left Wenger frustrated. people have to recognize the chance when it comes. right now Gervinho has tried three games at the center, if he doesnt prove himself, he cannot come two years later to ask for it. Arsene gives almost all players the chance. Fabregas got a chance to play the role he is now comfortably playing at Barca and complained. Theo lacks concentration, just like Jourou and they have to do something about it, whether at the wings or center.

      • I am sorry but I really don’t think this is right. He gave Cesc free range, true. But think of all the others who had to play where the (Plan a only) formation demanded. Like it or lump it.

    • In fairness Walcott is yet another player (Bendtner, Arshavin, Denilson, Reyes, Wiltord) who has seldom been given a chance in his best position – or his fancied position. This has at least partly been due to the inflexibility of AW’s tactical formation. Formation first / individual players last. This season we suddenly have changes to that approach. I would love to know how far that is thru Steve Bould ?? Dear old Pat Rice would never have opened his mouth, bless him.

  2. I think Theo has to earn it and if he gets a chance then take, as mentioned above he should be given one.

    However, I would far rather hear him say how he’s realised what’s needed of a forward at arsenal and been working doubly hard on his movement and decision making so he now feels ready. Just feels like he thinks he’s owed it.

    I think he would suit a 442 which with the players we have could easily turn in attack to 424, perfect for park the bus teams or late in games, we still struggled to break down sunderland + stoke.

    I also don’t quite get why he hates the inside fwd role on the right, podolski is scoring fine from there as has gervinho, just maybe it comes down to theo’s movement, anticipation and awareness!

    • Yes, the 4-4-2 has been debated a lot during the summer. But the last three games are indicative of why it’s not a preferred option anymore. Although we hit Southampton on breaks, we would have lost the Montpellier game but for better finishing by them because we failed to retain possession of the ball for long periods. Against City, it took four central midfielders to bring about that control so it’s unlikely we’ll see 4-4-2 against even the lesser team, except perhaps in some phases of play. But against Coventry tomorrow, it’s quite possible.

  3. My opinion theo haven’t improve as a football over the years,he is long due to leave arsenal

  4. I rather put walcot in front than gervinho, theo would av converted atleast one of d supplies given to gervinho against man city

  5. Well said MG,
    In a nice way, I agree that for the sake of both sides it is time for Walcott AND Arsenal to part company.
    In my view, events, new signings and the promotion of our young stars have overtaken Walcott and I do not feel his future lies with Arsenal FC.
    While I understand his obsession with becoming an out and out striker, he will never achieve this at Arsenal and therefore he would be well advised to seek his aim elsewhere.

  6. i dont think people really get the point. he is critisized for his work down the wings when he has never been a winger.how can you tell a striker to cover for a right back it wont work well. imagine if ian wright was played on the wings. lets just give him a chance upfront and if he doesnt deliver, he is off; its not fair for us to judge him on his role in an unfamiliar position of right winger, he has always been a striker simple

  7. a good bit of business would be a straight swap with spuds for their unused mexican winger dos santos. spurs could use theo and we could do with a quality winger like dos santos. just a thot

  8. @Andrew Tagoe,
    Watch Podolski track back to aid his defence. A striker with a sense of duty.

  9. Shakabula Gooner on said:

    If, really, playing in the position he thinks he prefers is the sticking point in Theo’s current contract negotiation, I know of no top coach that will pander to such a request in a contract and not in the field. Imagine the potential disruption in the team and erosion of the coach’s authority if other players are to take to the fad. You will have to be a Messi or a CRonaldo; dealing with a second rate starstruck coach, to make any headway bring up such in a contract.

    In any case, these days, the position Walcott wants is increasingly going to fast, skillful, one-touch and preferrably tall and burly players like RvP, Llorente, Drogba and Balottelli. Welbeck thumped Berbertov perhaps because of later’s slower pace and Chicharito couldn’t hold down the shirt despite his speed perhaps because he lacked the muscle. RvP arrival at ManU has relegated both of them become RvP is more complete in the required skills set.

    The days of Michael Owens No.9 may be gone for ever. The only small forward still hacking it is Defoe and that, because he has greater mobility across the entire front and greater shooting accuracy from outside the box…

    If we wanted a small skillful forward, we would have held on to Vela who is more skillful in that position than Walcott. And, right now, I will put Gervinho ahead of him to florish in the position. He is inherently more skilful even as he still lacks a master class first touch and a killer instinct for finishing off the chances he creates with his remarkable movement and ball skills. I will also put Gervinho ahead of him to improve in the areas in which he is currently lacking – in view of how much he has improved over last season.

    I agree, we may be seeing the last of Walcott in an Arsenal shirt if he sticks to his guns. Whereas, if he relents, there is no knowing how completely he may transform over the next 2seasons under wenger’s continued tutelage. His loss, alas, will be the gain of other younger and potentially greater Arsnal players’ gain.

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