Theo Walcott has never quite been able to shake off the comparisons with Thierry Henry. He plays for the same team, wearing the same number, has a similar preference of position, a similar style and even physically resembles Henry somewhat.
The comparisons have often been a hindrance to the winger, as he had enormous shoes to fill and the expectations were immense. People were desperate for him to be the next Henry, and when he didn’t do all of the things that his predecessor did he was slated in some parts of the media rather unfairly.
Being English certainly hasn’t helped either, as the media have piled more pressure on him, also desperate for him to fulfil his apparent destiny. All of this led to a somewhat turbulent first few years at Arsenal, and even now he still struggles to perform to the best of his ability.
Sparkling performances for Arsenal have appeared in bits and pieces, with consistency being Walcott’s greatest problem. This may also be due to the mind-set of opponents – he often struggles against defensive sides at the Emirates, as there is far less space for him in behind defences to run into.
Henry often mentored Walcott when the two were both at Arsenal, but once Henry left for Barcelona, his apparent heir relied on advice over the phone to help him become the player he wanted to become.
With the recent brief return of Henry to train at Arsenal, Walcott should feel as motivated as ever to work hard in training and improve.
The similarities in their play are clear: pace to burn, clever movement and in particular that finishing style of opening up their bodies to curl the ball at the goalkeeper’s far post. Walcott though is a firmly instinctive player, which is one place where he significantly differs from Henry, who was at ease in most situations.
On the other hand, Walcott is at his best when he’s not thinking about what he’s doing. Against Bolton recently he was put clean through, but by the time he got one on one with Jaaskelainen he panicked and was unable to beat the goalkeeper. In contrast, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, having tripped he bolted to his feet, sprinted between Terry and Ivanovic and blasted the ball past Cech in a matter of a couple of seconds.
With the recent brief return of Henry to train at Arsenal, Walcott should feel as motivated as ever to work hard in training and improve. Seeing his idol in training should inspire him to want to reach that kind of level and aspire to improve his game.
We’ll see the effects of training alongside Henry this weekend at Carrow Road, as Arsenal take on Norwich. The Canaries have received plaudits for their adventurous style of play, which should suit Walcott down to the ground, especially away from home.
Last season against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road the Tangerine Army played an extremely high line which Walcott exploited numerous times, setting up the third for Robin van Persie on a quick counter attack. Norwich will heed that lesson, but if Arsenal manage to stretch them as they have done to teams of late, Walcott could find himself some space in behind the defence.
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