Theo Walcott: Current Arsenal attack eclipses Invincibles
Arsenal, odds-on 4/9 with Coral for a top four finish, have struggled to hit the dizzy heights that ‘the Invincibles’ squad reached during many successful seasons under manager Arsene Wenger.
However, despite a 2013 FA Cup triumph being the only major success the Gunners have achieved in nine years, Arsenal winger Theo Walcott believes the current crop of attackers are a stronger outfit than past teams, including that of Wenger’s Invincibles.
Walcott, who joined the Gunners from Southampton in 2006, has played alongside several members of the Premier League’s only ever team to remain unbeaten in an entire season, but claims his present teammates pose more of an attacking threat.
“I think this squad probably does beat it, but we need to prove it,” Walcott said. “When I came, it was Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, [Dennis] Bergkamp, Thierry [Henry] and Jose Antonio Reyes, that’s some attacking force as well.”
The England international has missed the entire campaign through injury, but was full of admiration for the present forward-line.
“When we go and achieve a little bit more than winning the FA Cup, then I think we can stand up and say this is the best attacking line up we’ve ever had,” he continued.
Arsenal have struck 39 goals in 22 Premier League games this season, showing a real threat going forward, but how does Wenger’s current attacking options compare with that of Walcott’s debut season in 2006?
Thierry Henry v Alexis Sanchez
The Frenchman is regarded as Arsenal’s greatest ever player, after becoming the club’s highest goalscorer in history with a tally of 228, overtaking Ian Wright’s initial record of 175. At this stage of the 2005/06 Premier League campaign, after 22 league games, Henry had netted 13 times and was the Gunners’ leading scorer.
This season it’s Chilean sensation Sanchez at the forefront of his team’s goals, with 12 strikes. Wenger’s former fantastic French forward finished that term with 27 league goals and Sanchez is on course to reach a similar tally.
Robin van Persie v Danny Welbeck
The Dutchman became a club icon at Highbury, and later the Emirates, but soon banished his hero status after joining Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2012.
Van Persie scored 132 Gunners goals during his time in London, which included five in the 2005/06 term. Welbeck, who switched places with the United striker at the Emirates, has bagged four strikes so far this season, one more than Van Persie had after 22 games in 2006.
Jose Antonio Reyes v Santi Cazorla
Cazorla has been pivotal in his side’s climb up the Premier League table this term, and was a key player in their FA Cup victory last year. The Spanish playmaker has netted four league goals so far, one less than his fellow Spaniard and former Gunner Reyes managed that in Walcott’s first season at Arsenal.
Robert Pires v Olivier Giroud
Another French star, Pires, was a wonderfully gifted asset for the London club, playing a crucial role in the 2003/04 Invincible season and helping his side win seven trophies during his time at the club. Arsenal’s targetman Giroud has netted six times in the league this term, one less than what Pires achieved in the entire 2005/06 season.
Dennis Bergkamp v Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain
Bergkamp became one of the all-time great top-flight players during his spell under Wenger, with his elegant and majestic style of play stunning defences every week. Although, the dynamic Dutchman was not a prolific goalscorer, usually playing a creative role in his team’s many successes.
He had only one goal under his belt at this stage in 2006, eventually reaching just two for the campaign. Arsenal young-gun Chamberlain is in a similar situation, having celebrated just one league strike this season.