Walcott ready for the Centre stage?

Arsenal winger Theo WalcottDespite an untimely 6 week layoff, Theo Walcott is having a wonderful season thus far. He has tallied up 9 appearances and scored 7 goals – extremely impressive statistics. It’s more impressive still considering he continues to ply his trade on the right side of midfield. Given his run of form, Theo doesn’t seem to be lacking in confidence: “I aim to score between 15 and 20 this season, in all competitions,” said Walcott. “If I stay fit I hope I can reach my target and it would be a great achievement for me. I had six weeks out injured so, without that, it could have been more goals. I am fit, ready to go, happy and I am getting goals.”

If his form continues, it’s likely that he’ll meet this goal. Even against Newcastle, where Theo may feel a little disappointed with his performance, he still managed to rattle the crossbar with a fierce shot across goal. The boy is a real goal threat this season.

This raises a somewhat obvious question. Isn’t it time to bring him in off the wings and play him in the centre forward position?
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Walcott’s footballing hero, Thierry Henry was a winger when he first arrived at Highbury, before Wenger transformed him into one of the best strikers of all time. There’s nobody better to oversee Walcott’s transition than Arséne Wenger. When questioned about Theo, Wenger had this to say: “When I played Henry as a central striker, he said to me: ‘But I can’t score goals.’ It’s difficult to compare the similarities – is Thierry a replica of Theo? Is Theo a replica of Thierry? No. But they have in common tremendous pace, they are good finishers and both are intelligent.”

Whilst he’s certainly not a replica of Thierry Henry I think it’s clear that Theo has all the qualities necessary to make it as a centre forward. In previous seasons Walcott was often accused of bad or rushed decision making and of lacking impetus in the final third. The new season seems to have brought with it a new Walcott. He’s calm, controlled and smashing in the goals. But does Wenger think he’s ready to play as a centre forward?

“He [Walcott] is very close to playing that striker role. You know the two goals he scored against Newcastle, they were typical of a striker who plays on a counter-attack.” Whilst he’s pressing for a centre-forward position, he still has to contend with the likes of Chamakh (who has impressed in his first season at Arsenal) and Robin van Persie (who is returning from injury and is likely to hold down a first team place).

Despite his good form – or maybe because of his good form, I don’t think Wenger will move him into the centre just yet. Whether or not he could fulfil that role if called upon is another question. Given what we’ve seen from Walcott this season, I can’t help but feel as though he’s ready for the next step.

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