There are factors making the proposed transfer of Theo Walcott to Liverpool increasingly likely. The team need another striker and a finisher, while the player can’t wait to play in the central role. But there’s so much riding on a successful season (or just an season resembling something acceptable) for Brendan Rodgers that it really doesn’t seem to strike as a good move for either party.
Rodgers and Liverpool need a proven goal scorer and someone who is sure to put away the many, many chances the team create. Luis Suarez’s less than accurate shooting aside, the club simply need another experienced body in team. But it seems as though this story linking Theo Walcott with a move to Anfield is one of those where the idea is thrown at the wall in the hope that it sticks. And if it doesn’t, it’ll be thrown again in a further attempt to force some sense out of it.
The Liverpool owners would more than warm to the idea of bringing Walcott into the club. In fact, there’s a similar reason that they’ve looked at the Arsenal player and Daniel Sturridge. Both players’ age means they’re at that level where they can be of use to club and then be sold of in the future for some kind of profit. Not that any set of supporters would like to face the reality that this is how their owners think, but it makes sense. I don’t think John W. Henry and his group are particularly concerned about Theo Walcott’s track record, or lack thereof, as a central striker.
But the player is not ready for that permanent starting role, otherwise Arsene Wenger would surely have done something about it by now. You can hardly blame the Arsenal manager or even the club for Walcott’s frustratingly slow development, but evidently further time on the flanks or as a substitute is what’s needed. As has been mentioned in the past, the contract situation between Walcott and Arsenal may tell us a little more about his immediate future and what position he takes up on the pitch.
The obvious indicators are that Walcott is not an exceptional footballer, specifically from a technical point of view. His pace and ability to finish (when he fancies it) could be an asset to any side, but he so rarely brings those qualities to the fore that he’s sure to face a difficult period of adaptation as soon as any manager offers him a place as a central striker.
And what of Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy at Liverpool? Does Walcott really fit the mould of player he wants? Yes, there has always been potential for the player to be a 20 goal-a-season striker, but in what system? I’ve already made the point that it’s incredibly difficult for a player like Walcott to be effective in every game. He needs space to run into, largely due to his limited technical ability, and thus forces the issue of a team needing to play an open game. With players like Joe Allen in the team to retain possession, isn’t a player like Walcott a complete opposite to the pass and move system Rodgers wants to enforce?
There’s simple too many doubts as to whether he’d solve Liverpool’s problems, even if given plenty of time and a good run in the team. Walcott’s primary objective is to become consistent and use his qualities to impact games on a regular basis. He’s after a big contract at Arsenal and feels he’s deserving of it. He’s also taking his time and running down the clock in the belief that there are teams like Liverpool and perhaps even Manchester City after him. But the player seems to believe that there is something worthy of a contract in or around £100,000-a-week that’s plain for everyone to see. His image and status as a regular for the national team will only take him so far, but he’s certainly not at the level that players like Michael Owen were at this age, whereby Owen was intelligent enough to use his pace and finishing ability to it’s maximum.
From a Liverpool point of view, you then have to look at this English premium that’s sure to come up with Walcott once again. It’s big money for a player who may not start brightly. It’s a massive gamble on Rodgers’ part if he does decide Walcott has the qualities to be a good player in his system.
Arsene Wenger obviously sees the best role for Walcott as a wide forward, and even from there the very best attackers are able to get plenty of goals. Arsenal’s formation is essentially that of three strikers spread out across the pitch and with license to roam. The attacking full-backs in the team means there is enough width for players like Walcott or Podolski to drift inside and advance on goal.
For now, though, it seems as if Walcott is playing this central striker card as an excuse for his consistently poor performances over the past few years. He’s a player who doesn’t always seem to be in control of his abilities and is often caught in two minds as to what to do.
Walcott is very much a player still learning his trade and needing time to adapt if he is to be a successful striker. Those issues mean he’s far from the player Liverpool need at this stage.
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