It is fair to say that Arsenal’s longest serving player has been an enigma. From being selected in the England squad as a 16 year old, to the heights of scoring against Barcelona and an FA Cup final, to falling behind in the pecking order to Alex Iwobi at the tail end of last season. Yet, through all the ups and downs it is difficult to make our minds up about what the future holds for the speedy winger. At 27 years of age, his career is at a crossroads and he is well and truly past the stage where’s he’s a young prospect from an Arsenal perspective. So should he stay or should he go?
The case for Walcott
Around the time when Pep Guardiola was coaching Barcelona he made a comment basically saying that he didn’t fear Arsenal, but he did fear Walcott. He had good reason. Walcott was instrumental in us coming back from two goals down to make it 2-2 against the then best team in the world. When in free flow Walcott’s blistering pace is a deadly weapon which cannot be underestimated. Another example was the 2008 Champions League quarter final against Liverpool. A crucial counter attack, cutting through the entire team like a hot knife through butter.
Even as recently as earlier this season at home to Manchester United where we won 3-0 Walcott shone. He did not score however, he had an outstanding game stretching United constantly, having a hand in two of the goals.
Walcott is the most experienced player in the squad. Having been there ever since we’ve moved into the Emirates Stadium and having been under the same manager the entire time, he knows the ins and outs of the club. His presence in the dressing room, especially to the younger players will be invaluable.
Walcott also forms part of the strong “British core” that was established a few seasons ago. This was to establish stability at the club as many of our key players were leaving at the time. Wenger stated:
“I’m a strong believer in stability. And I believe when you have a core of British players, it’s always easier to keep them together and that’s what we’ll try to achieve going forward.”
Selling Walcott would mean Wenger admitting that this strategy did not work and would have the other British players in the squad questioning the philosophy and their own futures.
The case against Walcott
It is clear that Walcott is a little one dimensional. Yes, his pace is great, however, when the situation of the game isn’t pace and counter attack friendly, its almost as if we are playing with 10 men. The trouble is this happens far too often. It isn’t entirely his fault, teams that play us set themselves up so that they sit back and have 10 men behind the ball. Walcott doesn’t have any opportunity to use his pace, and therefore remains largely anonymous. Every so often we have a counter attack and he becomes the best thing since sliced bread but we simply cannot afford to effectively play with 10 men for a majority of our games, nor can be keep paying someone £140,000 and simply have them on the bench.
He doesn’t dribble (unless he’s in behind the defence) he doesn’t take on players and he’s not good in the air. He is also a liability in defence, and these days, everyone is expected to defend no matter which position.
After 10 seasons we are still asking the same questions as a decade ago. Is he a winger? Is he a striker? This is probably a sign that he needs to go. Whether or not it is Wenger’s fault tactically, or if it is Walcott’s fault for not bringing more to his game, it simply isn’t working out, and the fact that a young Alex Iwobi and Joel Campbell are ahead of him in the pecking order tells you all you need to know.
In conclusion, Theo Walcott will be a tough sell for us despite there being more arguments for selling him than against. I can only imagine him playing for another Premier League team and then ripping us apart with his pace, but that’s the risk we will have to take. We need a new striker and we currently have a striker/winger on a very high wage, with an uncertain future who still has a high British player resale value. I say, Theo thanks for the memories but it is time to say goodbye.
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