In the past few days, and understandably so, we’ve been very distracted by the contact saga of our captain, Robin Van Persie. Now that he has come out with his statement we more or less know that he is leaving. What about the other man in the final year of his contract? I am talking about Theodore Walcott, our Mr Mercurial, Mr Jekyll and Hyde. What does the future hold for our enigmatic winger/striker?
Never in the recent history of Arsenal football club has a player divided opinion as much as Theo Walcott has. The man is the epitome of inconsistency, in fact, go look up that word in the dictionary now, you’ll find his picture. I don’t mean to be a fence sitter but I am having difficulty deciding whether I am a lover of Walcott, or a frustrated fan. The truth is I am a bit of both. The relationship with Walcott and the fans is a volatile one, an ‘on again, off again’ relationship. Our 5-2 victory against Sp*rs this season summed it up quite brilliantly. As we were frustrated by his lack of conviction we booed him during the first half. Then the ‘other Walcott’ came out in the second half and captured our imagination with a sensational second half display.
There are days when Walcott just mesmerises you, and you feel as though nothing can stop him. Think back to that incredible length of the field run against Liverpool in the Champions League in 2008. There was that orgasmic chip against Villereal in 2009. Then there was his game changing run and goal against Barcelona in 2010. That performance was enough for Barcelona to acknowledge that he was the player they were most worried about in the second leg. Last season there was the sneaky goal against Chelsea which gave us the lead. Then there was the famous brace against the scum to make it 5-2. He’s turned up in the big games and really given something extra to us as fans. His exciting pace and lethal finishing in addition to the important goals he’s scored sends the supporters into Cloud Nine. Its an incredible feeling.
Then there’s the other side of the coin. I may be a tad harsh here, because I don’t doubt that he doesn’t put in the effort, and I don’t recall a time when he’s completely lost the plot either, but to sum it up, Walcott goes missing in most games. When he isn’t setting the world alight, he’s an anonymous figure on the pitch. Some games go by and I don’t even remember him touching the ball, let alone doing anything with it. His crossing, while it has improved, leaves much to be desired. Sometimes I feel that he is a one-trick pony, his lethal pace and pinpoint finishing is all he has, he doesn’t have the trickery to get past players on his own, he requires a killer pass to run into. Sometimes I think to myself that Arsenal already has fast players like Gervinho, Miyaichi and Oxlade-Chamberlain who can burst down the wings after receiving a great pass. Even if they don’t receive a killer pass, they have the skill to take on defenders one on one and get past them, something Walcott isn’t as good at.
If we were to sell him this window, would it be the worst thing? He is English, therefore we’d get a great price for him, probably upwards of £15 million. We have fast wingers who are arguably more consistent in Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who will only get better next season. We could reinvest the money and buy another player with it too.
So what does the future hold for Theo Walcott? Well despite all the negativity surrounding him I think it’d be stupid to let him go, especially given he has his best years ahead of him. Yes, I know the fans are impatient and the excuse that he will mature is getting a bit old, but remember he is still only 23 years old. It feels like he has been around forever, but he has already achieved so much as a player, and can only get better. I think with a little patience, the fans will see more consistency from Theo and hopefully the explosive performances come with more regularity. Hopefully Wenger gives him more chances in the middle, where he’s said he’d prefer to play. We’ve all but lost Van Persie, so it makes the decision to keep Walcott a more logical one.