Theo Walcott: a flawed genius or a one trick pony?

Theo Walcott has hit the headlines in the last week, for good and bad reasons. For England last week, Walcott was a big disappointment, but against Burnley last weekend the winger was sensational, scoring a goal and whipping a few excellent crosses into the box for Nicklas Bendtner to miss. What was Theo’s reward? A place on the bench against Porto in the Champions League.

Now I’m not going to blame Arsene Wenger for not starting Walcott, seeing as Arsenal obliterated Porto to reach the quarter finals and the team he chose did an exceptional job. But what is going on with Walcott’s up and down form at the moment? Chris Waddle publicly said after the England game that the Arsenal man, “was lacking a football brain and doesn’t know where to be running, when to run inside a full-back, and when just to play a one-two.”

It’s hard to believe that Theo is only 20 years old, so you have to cut him some slack in that respect, as he still has plenty of time to develop and become a world-class player. But the fact that Theo is extremely inconsistent is a definite problem. Granted, Walcott has been injured a lot this season, only starting 6 games in the Premiership, and making nine substitute appearances and scoring 2 goals. But one great game where he destroys a team with his lightning-quick pace, followed by an absolute shocker is not acceptable at the top level. Theo undoubtedly needs to develop his game: all he has is pace, and Waddle has a point that he does not have the skills or the trickery to beat his man, he can only run past them.

Theo’s inconsistency is partly to do with his age, and partly the fact that he doesn’t get a solid run of games for Arsenal. Look at what a run in the first team can do for a youngster: Alex Song is a prime example. Everybody is raving about the defensive midfielder this season because he has overcome his inconsistencies through a run of regular games. Aaron Lennon at Spurs is another good example. Before his injury, Lennon was cementing his place as one of the best wingers in the country, and had improved his game and was excelling for Tottenham. If Walcott could get the run of games that Lennon did he could become a more complete player and more consistent performer for club and country.

Theo has said there are elements in his game that need improving, saying:

“Crossing and my left foot are the two big things I have been working on lately.

I want to improve my left foot. Against Burnley, I came inside, saw it open up and I managed to score. Hopefully I can do that more often.”

Maybe we in the media overhype Walcott and see him as better than he is: maybe he is never destined to become a world-class player. Theo is playing out of position at Arsenal, seeing as he was a striker at Southampton. But Walcott needs to improve both his finishing and his timing of runs if he wants to be playing up front for both Arsenal and England.

Sending Theo out on loan to another club may be another option, just like what happened with Bendtner, who was allowed to develop at Birmingham. If Walcott was sent out on loan, then he could experience playing week-in, week-out for a team that doesn’t have to win every week like Arsenal do, and develop his all-round game.

Seeing as Arsenal are only two points behind leaders Manchester United, and are in the key stages of their title run-in, they definitely need Theo Walcott at his best if they want to win any domestic or european silverware this season.

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