When the highly rated 16-year-old Theo Walcott made the switch to Arsenal from Southampton on a pre-contact deal for an initial £5m, it looked like he could be the next Thierry Henry and comparisons were made between the two.
However back in 2006, then Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp, who had given Walcott his debut during his time at Southampton, warned against making any comparison with Henry. “He is a million miles away from Thierry Henry and if he ever gets anywhere near his standard he will be one of the best players we’ve ever seen in this country.” This warning has proved to be quite accurate but maybe now is the time to test Walcott in the striker position.
In the last five years there have been glimpses of Walcott’s potential including in 2008 when he single-handedly destroyed Croatia in Zagreb but these moments of quality have been quite rare and I feel his potential is being wasted on the wing where he lacks the ability to succeed.
Arsene Wenger made the decision to turn him into a right winger due to his young age and slight figure but with the 22-year-old declaring that he wants a move up-front to help his progress, it could be finally time to test the winger in the central attacking position.
Walcott said: “I hope I’ll move inside. It just depends on the players the boss brings in. I was signed as a striker, I want to play up front. I’ve done my trade out on the wing. A lot of people forget I’m not a winger.”
There has been evidence that Theo has worked on his all-round game this season, he has always looked like a natural goal-scorer but now his finishing is more composed and with his blistering pace he could cause problems to any defence.
However he still lacks consistency and common sense as a footballer, often taking the wrong option, and his passing is typically wayward. If he wants to succeed as a striker he will need to work on his distribution especially in holding the ball up as he would be required to do playing in a central attacking role. His on-field intelligence, although improved, is still holding him back from fulfilling his potential.
With the current formation that Wenger employs it is difficult to see where Walcott would fit in alongside Robin Van Persie especially if the Dutchman can continue his impressive end of season form in a one man attack. I think a move back to a 4-4-2 looks unlikely but after the acquisition of Gervinho this summer, there may be the possibility that Wenger could turn to a new 4-3-3 formation, with Gervinho on the right, Van Persie down the middle and Walcott on the left. This formation would be effective on the counter attack but could leave the team fallible in the midfield.
Walcott scored goals as a youngster and although he has taken time to adapt to the top-level, with his useful attributes there is no reason why Walcott would not make it as a striker, something that Wenger has always believed would happen. Although for this season it looks to be ambition rather than a genuine reality as Wenger would need to change tactics to complement him in the team. He may never be as good as Henry was but one day he could well be a successful out and out striker and finally become the talent he looked six years ago.
Do you think Walcott deserves a chance to prove himself as a striker? Do you believe he is still a work in progress or is now the time to give up on his potential? Let me know your thoughts!