Today’s blog was going to be about the tactical effect of
speedsters. I was going to discuss Overmars, the Ljungberg effect on
creating space for Henry on that inside left channel, and of course our
current speed merchant, Theo Walcott. It then became a (too) detailed
explanation on why the boss has persisted with Walcott through possibly
the most inconsistent first-team career I’ve seen from an Arsenal
player, for 6 years.
As I was writing that
dissertation-sized piece, I realised that the Arsenal blogosphere has
talked Walcott almost to death. We’ve combed over his stats, his
inconsistency, his potential (or lack of it). I’ve read plenty of
conclusions based on very solid reasoning, but in terms of his potential
I am still very much in the small minority, so it became about that.
The last two seasons have seen Theo take a quantum leap in terms of on pitch confidence, and certainly the tactical side of his game over the past couple of years has been fantastic. His off the ball movement has been such that even when he’s not in the game, he’s having a big effect on it. Now that movement is second nature to him his focus seems to have slowly shifted. It’s taking him less time to settle his nerves on the ball… in fact last season he started quite a few games with full confidence and managed to stay in his zone for the whole 90 mins.
years ago that was rare for Theo, 4 years ago it was irregular, 2 years
ago it was occasional, and last year his numbers show that it was more
often than not. He had the odd 3-4 game dip but was easily our most
effective forward over the campaign, and as @goonerdave66 points out
very eloquently here, was actually one of the most efficient forwards in Europe and is one of the very best for his age.
question that fans are still asking is ‘how much potential has he got?’
Plenty of us still don’t believe he can be world class but as I’m about
to explain, I have to totally disagree.
Last season, his
contribution in terms of goals and assists was 38 in all competitions.
If he does it again next year or improves on those numbers, so long he
keeps his head down and keeps working on it over the next few years you
can start to expect that from him. In fact he could probably have done
even better last season, and I predict that next season he will go even
Now to me it doesn’t matter if you think he’s one
footed, one dimensional and lacking the technique of his peers: if he’s
consistently contributing between 35 and 40 goals to a team campaign
per season in both the champions league and the premier league, can
anybody really begrudge him world class status?
genuinely curious, as I’ve asked this question to a fair number of
people and I’m yet to hear about a single forward across Europe’s top 5
leagues that has contributed to that degree without being recognized as
world class. By my reckoning if you can do it against the best, no
matter what your talent level, you’re the best of the best.
30 goal, 10+ assist forward that can maintain that level over a number
of years, would surely be considered world class. In fact, as
@goonerdave66 pointed out here… there are very few 30 goal per season strikers on the planet. If he
proves that last year wasn’t a fluke and produces again, we’re on the
way to Theo’s inclusion guaranteeing a 40-goal return over a season. By
that point it’s beyond argument that he’s of huge, huge value to any top
Off the ball he’s a natural. He’ll get in the
positions… it’s about what he does when he’s there. Now that the
efficiency is improving when he’s ‘in the zone’, he has plenty of space
to become more consistent. He just needs to find a way to stay in the
zone. Staying in the zone is what carries top players through their peak
years. At 24 he has his peak years ahead of him, and he’s just started
getting good…these days Theo actually wants the duels with his
fullbacks, he wants to get at the opposition and he wants to threaten
the keeper at any opportunity. He’s not doing it because he knows he has
to anymore, he’s looking forward to it.
Years gone by
have been all about his off the ball movement to benefit the shape of
the team, now he’s a real danger on the ball as well. Put both of those
two together, drill it into him until it becomes second nature, and Theo
can become unmanageable. Within this new Arsenal team, with (hopefully)
an improved supply line, better shape and more tactical flexibility,
he’s at the cusp of becoming very special indeed. I’m certain that
there’s still plenty of scope for him to further surprise the fans.
increased efficiency in the past couple of years have come during
Arsenal’s least creative period since his arrival. If we have the summer
I think we will have and manage to add potent finishers and creative
minds to the Arsenal mix, he can go even further. He’s already at 40
goals+assists and he can do better: He’s on an upward curve and whatever
you say about him, his numbers show that he’s improved virtually every
year since he arrived. True he’s had more improvement to make than most
but he’s made up the ground. Walcott is now a top player, and he’s not
even the finished article.
As far as I can see, if Theo
repeats the contribution of this season for two more years and we deny
him world class status, he’d probably be the only one providing that
number who football fans don’t rate as highly. You’d have to
question if, logically, there can be a top level forward contributing
circa 40 goals per year in the EPL, Champions League and domestic cups,
that is NOT considered world class.
So for those that don’t think he’ll ever be a world class player, my question is…
if he doesn’t get any better (although I believe he will) but he
contributes 40 plus goals and assists for the next 2 or 3 seasons, would
you still consider him to be less than world class? And if so, why?
always happy to discuss anything Arsenal with reasonable and
open-minded fans, so if you have any thoughts on this subject feel free
to leave comments, either on this page or on Twitter.
Thanks for reading.