Let’s start with the immediate, this is Theo Walcott’s player dashboard from the second-half of Saturday’s 3-0 victory over West Ham (courtesy of Arse Blog). If ever a word came to mind, that word would be ‘passenger.’ That reads as one successful pass, one unsuccessful, two fouls committed, one shot assist and one regained ball. The last is perhaps the most concerning.
There are of course excuses that can be made for Walcott’s recent troubles and lack of playing time, which can also just be as easily dismissed. Let’s start with his injury troubles. Yes he was sidelined for a year but scored three in four upon immediate return, his all-round play was pretty rusty (expectedly) but it’s never exactly been the pinnacle of technical skill.
Arsene is now demanding more from his team than just goals, he needs hard work and for the most part he’s finding it. Four of Arsenal’s last eight games have been 2-1 wins they’ve had to *CLICHÉ* grind out. This is simply not a part of Theo Walcott’s game.
When Arsenal are without the ball Theo Walcott is practically AWOL. He does not have the dogged determination of Alexis Sanchez or even Danny Welbeck to chase after the ball and get it back, that is obvious.
This brings us to the other, massive factor. Personnel. Some 18 Months ago when Walcott’s contract needed renewing the long and painful process to get him to “sign da ting” was a necessity, we were a team without any real outlets of pace besides Walcott himself and the thought of losing him and being labelled a feeder club again was out of the question.
Now we are gifted with a wealth of attacking talents up-front and in midfield. Olivier Giroud will always have critics but his form is now matching his smouldering good-looks, netting 11 goals in 19 appearances during this campaign after missing three months through injury. Alexis Sanchez has everything Theo Walcott has in his locker but is infinitely better at it and then some. Danny Welbeck is a similar story, although goal-scoring is something that is still lacking from his overall game, his work-rate can never be criticised. Goals are not something Arsenal are struggling with anyway, as the team now has 15 different scorers in the league.
So where does that leave Theo Walcott? Will he be cast out into the cold? Very unlikely and very un-Wenger like.
There is undoubtedly a certain time for Theo Walcott and that is the main problem, there are only specific periods when Walcott is a viable option for Arsenal. When the team are defending a 2-1 lead he’s not someone you want on the pitch, and that is something Arsenal are doing a lot right now as previously mentioned.
When you want to win 3-0 away from home - like Monaco tomorrow - then yes, he ticks those boxes, but so does Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Cazorla and Mesut Ozil. They are mainstays of the Arsenal team, and if that’s not working you have Danny Welbeck. If Arsenal do miraculously get themselves in the position where they need to protect that lead you then definitely do not want Walcott dawdling about haplessly on the pitch.
If Theo is to flourish again at Arsenal he needs to adapt. He needs to be more like Welbeck. Does he have the stomach for a fight?