Theo Walcott can become world class for Arsenal as main striker
Theo Walcott’s first half hat-trick in Arsenal’s 4-1 win at home over West Bromwich Albion was nothing short of exceptional.
So good in fact, that it has had fans and pundits alike calling for manager Arsene Wenger to firstly, start him ahead of Olivier Giroud in the FA Cup final next week against Aston Villa and going forward, make him Arsenal’s regular, main striker.
Walcott, who joined the club as an exciting right winger from Southampton in January 2006 as a 16-year-old, has always shown promise that he can develop into a world class player, and these signs have occasionally materialised over the last few years, as he demonstrated his goal-scoring ability.
Gradually his instincts in front of goal have sharpened. In January of last year, however, he sustained a serious knee injury, which saw him spend over a year sidelined.
Against the Baggies, he showed the world that he was back, in true style. The finish for Arsenal’s opener was on a par with one of Lionel Messi’s best and his all-round performance was perfect.
It has long been hoped that Walcott might complete the transition from winger to striker, in a similar fashion to the one that Wenger oversaw with ex-club legend Thierry Henry, and, to devastating effect. One which helped the Frenchman become arguably the best player in the world at the time.
At the Emirates, against a stubborn Tony Pulis side, no less, in a statement which couldn’t have been any clearer, Walcott made it known. The position is his, and there is no going back.
The fact of the matter is, that while Giroud is effective, he is also inconsistent; no goals in eight games says it all.
When Walcott plays up front, surrounded by Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere (though in reality, take your pick also from Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), Arsenal are far more fluid, and harder to handle.
At the end of the 1990s, football commentators coined the saying “just like watching Brazil”. Well, when Arsenal set-up like they did against the Baggies and play like they did, it’s “just like watching Barcelona”. Arguably, the club version of a modern-day Brazil.
Forget Henry, Walcott can become as effective for Arsenal as Messi is for Barca. His low centre of gravity, close ball control, and developed sense of unpredictability can win the Gunners football games, and more importantly, trophies for years to come.
Wenger always maintained his great faith in what was a very young core of the team throughout the last decade, and it is now starting to pay dividends. It should also be noted that Wilshere has had a torrid time with injuries as well.
He highlighted against the West Midlands club though, just how good he is. His finish was simply spectacular, as he drove an instinctive half-volley from the edge of the area in off the underside of the crossbar.
And then there is Ramsey at 24 years of age. Another player, who like Walcott (26) joined when he was a teenager, and has since shown he can also become one of the best. In the second half, he was mercurial, hitting the post with a divine, imaginative effort, before agonizingly seeing his delicate curling dink tipped onto the post by Boaz Myhill, who was at full stretch.
Combine this long-nurtured talent with the natural world class ability that Ozil and Sanchez have in attacking roles, with Walcott at the top of his game leading the line, and the potential is frightening.
This season, Arsenal have once again reached the FA Cup final, and are odds-on at 3/10 with Coral to retain it, and also achieved their highest finish in the Premier League, since Henry and co won it in 2004 going the Premier League season unbeaten.
Against Aston Villa at Wembley, Walcott can do exactly what he did against the Baggies. On his day, as he showed, he is unplayable, and with his speed and trickery, Tim Sherwood’s defence will have to guard against giving a penalty or threatening free-kick away.
Although, there is no doubt that Giroud is also a quality forward, he isn’t world class, his instinct isn’t quite there, though his range of finishing has improved over the last couple of seasons.
With a full pre-season behind Walcott, though, he can go from strength to strength. He is a confidence player, and once that comes, he can terrorise defences next term and lead a very credible Arsenal assault on the Premier League, with the north London outfit priced at 5/1 to win the title.