Before reading this article might I ask that you please take off your red and white spectacles and try to be objective rather than allow your loyalty to the club and our players to cloud your view.
Weighing up a conundrum is never easy, especially when so many variables apply. In the case of a footballer, these include performance, fitness, mental attitude, and their current status, form and future. In today’s market where Arsenal are a cash rich club buying 30-40million pound players in each window, sale value versus future form and performance versus contract cost also come in to play. As does who that money could buy if that player is sold and his fee and wages were used elsewhere.
So there are the variables, let’s look back a bit.
Theo or TW as I am going to call him, started his career at Southampton
In the 20044/5 season, he starred in the Southampton youth side that reached the final of the FA youth cup against Ipswich. He also became the youngest person to play in the Southampton reserve team at 15 years and 175 days, when he came off the bench against Watford in September 2004 He did not play in the Premier League, as Southampton were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2004–05 season.
TW went on to become the youngest-ever player with the Southampton first team, at 16 years and 143 days, after coming on as a sub against Wolves in the Championship.
TW made his full first team debut away to Leeds on 18 October 2005, scoring his first senior goal in the same game. He scored again away at Millwall four days later, and again in his full home debut against Stoke the following Saturday.
TW signed for Arsenal on 20 January 2006, for a fee of £5 million, rising to £12 million depending on appearances for club and country. The original fee was payable by instalments – £5 million down, £5 million based on club appearances and £2 million based on England appearances – but was revised to a total of £9.1 million by a compromise settlement agreed on 31 March 2008.
Despite his age when signing for Arsenal a lot was expected of him, his pace and goal scoring at Southampton, his idolising Thierry Henry and wanting to emulate his hero and train with him and how Arsenal would develop him were all boosts to the hype.
So how has TW fared so far in his Arsenal career?
Has he lived up to his promise, the hype, has he developed as a player should as he matures?
Has he become a prolific goal scorer for Arsenal and England, is he when fit, a natural one amongst the first to be put on the team sheet?
TW’s last contract negotiations were rather drawn out and done at a time when R Van Git had just jumped ship, after being less than charitable about his team mates in an interview done with Simon Kuper in the FT. The fans at that time were in uproar that Van Git was being sold to Manchester United. TW’s agent for sure saw,that Arsenal could not lose what seemed at the time to be such a promising young fast England regular. We must remind ourselves at the time we had not many other forward options.
So TW signed a new contract, believed to pay him a 100k a week plus other nice add ons. TW also wanted to play up front, for a while that was indulged due to shortages and no doubt helped during his contract negotiations.It proved to TW and the fans who called for it, that it wasn’t a good choice, and that he can’t play with his back to goal or act as a lynch pin.
Before we get to any form of assessment let us have a look at how TW has been described by managers and players. It is rare that a player has been described in such opposing terms by managers and players.
Messi– “One of the most dangerous players I have ever played against”. Then later Messi said “I was shocked when Capello named his World Cup squad, and believe England would have had more success if Walcott was onboard.”I must say that at the time I thought it was a bad decision to leave Theo Walcott at home.”
Xavi – “We were playing Arsenal in London, and we were winning 2-0, in total control. There was no way we should have done anything but win the game. “Then they introduced Theo Walcott. He changed the game for them and it finished 2-2. We didn’t know how to deal with his pace.”
Guardiola fears more of the same in tonight’s quarter-final second leg in the Nou Camp. At the weekend, the Spaniard joked: “He could not even be stopped by a gun. “Walcott can do the 100 metres in 10.37 seconds. That is incredible for a footballer and any defender would struggle
Roy Hodgson – “It is a blow for him personally of course, and for both Arsenal and England.”We had quite a lengthy conversation and it is such a shame that we have lost a player of his calibre for the World Cup, he has been incredibly unfortunate and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Alan Hansen “With the pace and trickery he possesses in abundance, Walcott will always make a living from the game, but the big unknown is whether he has enough to make it right to the top, and be remembered as a great player” and “Walcott must learn to think as fast as he can run”
Chris Waddle – “Walcott lacks “a football brain“, and told BBC Five Live that he stands by those comments.”He’s had a long time at Arsenal; he’s playing with fantastic players, a lot of young players around his age group. He’s never nailed his shirt at Arsenal. I’ve got nothing against the lad. I just think it’s no surprise for me he’s not on the plane. I look and I just think he doesn’t seem to understand the game.”
Sir Geoff Hurst – “It doesn’t surprise me that he wasn’t included,” Hurst told the Press Association. “The reason he hasn’t been included is because of his lack of consistency of performance.”
Strange a player can be talked of by differing people in such opposing views and almost as if there are multiple TW’s. In a schizophrenic way, there are three Theo Walcotts, the one who turned on his afterburners at Liverpool, and laid on the ball for Adebayor to score, the one who ruined Spurs in the second half when booed off in the first half, and then the one who hides, shuns involvement, contact, and jogs around not contributing.
Arsenal fans hold in their memories the goals and blistering pace, his signalling 2-0 at Spurs fans off a stretcher. But like pensioners remembering the good old days, we forget the unpleasant huge and major issues.
Let’s be fair to ourselves for all the flashes of brilliance there has also been many bad performance, wasted chances, and lack of improvement.
Steve Bould was quoted as saying that as Walcott went off at half time to boos at the emirates vs. Spurs “he had fear in his eyes”
Walcott appears to be a level headed, articulate intelligent stable and pleasant likeable young man, sensible to the core. Indeed a man of whom a lot is expected of still. Nerves seem to play a huge part in his psyche, he does look nervous at kick off, or when coming on as sub.
Are nerves or stress a reason for the multiple Theo’s?
In my opinion yes and no, yes they are a factor, but there are other factors too which when put together give us the reason for the multiple Theo’s.
But let’s rip through the rose tinted memories of Theo’s highlight reel playing in his fanboys/girls memories and look at his Arsenal and England career stats.
Is he really a prolific scorer and assister? Is his all round game that good his colleague at right back is happy Theo is in front of him?
Source – Arsenal.com
And here is TW’s England record
Source – The FA.com
So we can see that for England he isn’t a prolific scorer 36 appearances and 5 goals, a match to scoring ratio of 7 matches per goal or 0.2 goals per game.
His Arsenal career is better, when on top form and of course he receives far better service and benefits from Arsenal’s playing style which is far more sophisticated and geared to his play than England’s system under Hodgson.
His goals per game ratio started low at 0.03 and rose steadily as did appearances throughout 2007-2010, and then TW had a first team spot. Stability here was the key and his goals to ratio in his most prolific period rose to 13, 11, and 21 in 2010, 2011, 2012. His goal ratio for the same periods was 0.34, 0.23 and his best in 2012 0.48.
To make sense of that we can compare TW’s goal ratios above to the current form of the premier league’s top 25 goal scorers.
Source Premier league .com
We can see at his most meagre TW fits in to the current top 25 just, at his best he would be in 10th place. Players we may wish to compare TW to who play in a similar position are Chadli – 27th, Berahino 14th, Hazard 21st, Sterling 50th and Walcott himself sat currently at no 32.
At his best on current yardstick, TW would be sat at number 10, and in his median performances around the late 20’s.
Does this show the consistency you would expect from a wide player with the phenomenal pace TW possesses, playing in a team with the best midfielders who should be able to find him, and give him the ball how he wants and where he wants it. Certainly it does not fulfil expectations or the promise shown. We also need to look at his overall game to reveal more about the multiple TW’s.
And you can do so in Part ” later this afternoon.
Our special thanks to Steve who most of you on social media will know as@Lordhillwood . Steve has been an Arsenal fan for 50 years, and was a season ticket holder at Highbury for 37 years. In the last 5 of those years he flew in and out for home games and attended many away Champion league fixtures, despite working and living in Warsaw Poland.
He was a member of the Bergkamp Wonderland podcast and featured in Little Bit Arsenal’s podcast and writes regularly for the Arsenal Identity blog. He still manages to get to London despite work and fatherhood to see games and meet friends.
The Second part continues his detailed analysis and perhaps a conclusion to the Walcott Conundrum…….to be continued
Follow @Lordhilwood on twitter.