As a Southampton fan, it’s been quite a pleasing season as far as the Championship goes, but even the Premier League has managed to suitably satisfy my footballing palate: Nathan Dyer has been terrifying opposition defences with his speed and agile dribbling style at Swansea, Andrew Surman is finally getting a decent run of games in the Norwich line-up popping up with the odd goal and assist, Leon Best is proving a good foil for a more than capable Demba Ba and then there are the players involved in a battle for the Champions League spots, and all have come through the ranks at Southampton: Gareth Bale , Theo Walcott and our latest export, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain .
However, one thing I’ve had to grow to live with, is the constant, and seemingly in unison, sigh of “oh dear” that follows Theo Walcott’s performances around like his shadow: and it comes from opposition and Arsenal fans alike. The winger, who had been described as “having been hyped” more than the kid-prodigy that was Freddy Adu, burst on to the scene at Southampton aged 16, putting in performances worthy of the initial £12m fee that was needed to prize him away from The Saints.
Yet, since his premature World Cup 2006 inclusion and his following 200 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 35 along the way and a hat-trick for England, it seems that Arsenal fans still aren’t collectively convinced by Theo Walcott’s credentials as a top class player and with his contract coming to an end and apparent stalling over wage demands for a new contract, some seem happy for Walcott to either, take what Arsenal offer, or be on his way.
His performance Monday evening against Fulham at Craven Cottage, has seemingly failed to do him any favours too: the football expert that is Piers Morgan, (yes Piers Morgan, who would have thought that?) tweeted, “Oh Walcott, learn to bloody cross a ball. For Christ’s sake,” before following that most critical of analysis’s up with, ”Oh THEO. Get a grip.” It became apparent that thw talent scout, normally sat behind a desk with an “X”, wasn’t alone as Arsenal fans and pundits across the globe simultaneously pressed their red buzzer: “Arguably Theo Walcott’s most ineffectual game. And he has a long list of ineffectual games,” from thisisfutbol editor Harry Cloke; “”Walcott’s lack of composure is alarming. Both crossing and shooting. Surely he’s better than this.” Not sure that he is,” from the Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton and “Theo Walcott pays tribute to rap greats De La Soul with that shot: Three feet high and rising” comically, from The Mirror.
Whilst contract negotiations remain ongoing, with one fan sarcastically summing up what he thinks of Walcott’s demands, “Walcott makes his biggest contribution of the day by being subbed off. Definitely a performance worth £85k today, Theo,” the continual disappointment displayed by fans at performances, may well fail to aid the situation considering that, according to crunchsports.com/, Liverpool, Chelsea and Barcelona have been alerted to Walcott’s expiring contract and the difficulties surrounding agreement on a new contract at The Emirates.
Monday’s performance has clearly not helped Theo Walcott’s case in justifying his wage demands, according to most of the viewing public, and I have been left in the minority still defending Theo Walcott. In the first half at The Cottage, Walcott put three delightful balls into the Fulham penalty box and it was only Gervinho ’s poor shot, Ramsey ’s saved shot and a trailing Fulham body part, that prevented the England winger from having a few assists to his name.
Had one of Walcott’s first half crosses been converted, his anonymity in the second half may have been forgiven: as it was, Arsenal had a man dismissed and Fulham made them pay for failing to capitalise on the first half domination Arsenal enjoyed in terms of shots. Alan Hansen described Wenger’s decision to take Walcott off as one that allowed “Arsenal [to] get pegged back further and further,” by Fulham, with an absence of his, “pace in abundance,” that added ”another dimension,” to Arsenal’s performance.
Arsenal have a two week break from the Premier League now and it may well be much needed, if not just for the rest that Robin Van Persie will get after what has been a relentless 2011. With his support, Walcott included, not in goal-scoring form, the two weeks will provide a time in which Arsenal forwards can find their feet once more, this time under the tutelage of an Arsenal great, Thierry Henry. During January, Arsenal lose Gervinho to international duty for the African Cup of Nations and relying on Thierry Henry to replicate the form of his last seasons in the Premier League, is not what you want to place your top four hopes on: Arsenal fans need to get behind their boo-boy Theo Walcott this January.
Walcott can be relied on and a confidence in him from the fans will transpire into a confidence in his performance and that is when Walcott is at his best . Over the past 18 months, Theo has a record that can rival fellow Southampton Academy product Gareth Bale : in 46 starts, Walcott has score 15 goals and has laid on 16 assists, whilst the Welsh wing wizard has hit 18 goals and provided 10 assists in 8 more starts.
Head to head, Walcott has a goals to game ratio of one in every 3 starts, which is matched by Bale and when it comes to assists, Walcott’s return of one every 2.88 starts betters Bale’s average of one every 5.4 starts. Tottenham fans will argue that Bale’s overall game is better and his contribution far exceeds Walcott’s game of pace and directness, however, when on form, Walcott’s attacking contribution is exceptional and just as valued by Arsenal as Bale’s contribution in defence is, by a heavily and free-flowing attacking Tottenham team.
This January, with it becoming clear that Arsenal find it hard to churn out results if Van Persie isn’t scoring, a rarity nonetheless, it is more important than ever to get behind Theo Walcott, especially in the absence of Gervinho and the presence, and thus pressure, of playing alongside Thierry Henry. Arsenal fans have something that most other clubs would snap up in an instant: a 22-year old with 132 PL games under his belt already, an international regular for England and a player that Messi labelled as “one of the most dangerous players” he has faced; now it is time for them to put some confidence back into a player lacking in it, if they want to see his better days once more.
Written by Jordan Florit for This is Futbol
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