Theo James Walcott signed from Southampton on the 20th January 2006 and I for one was delighted.
He was young, English, exciting and, above everything, the first Arsenal player I knew of, who was younger than me – by a month, which kind of caught my imagination and gave me a unique supporter-player relationship that I’ve never had since nor will again.
I remember it feeling like an eternity waiting for him to make his debut. Then finally, after half a season and a bizarre call up to the England world cup squad, he finally made his debut for us in the 73rd minute of our first ever league match at the Emirates setting up invincible Gilberto Silva for an equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Villa.
And now has incredibly notched up 10 seasons at London’s finest making over 228 appearance’s scoring 54 goals. My strength of belief in Theo makes this hard to write but sometimes things just have to be said. And the man who now adorns club legend and record goal scorer’s Thierry Henry’s number 14 shirt needs to have his future in it questioned.
The Barcelona game was the cold slap of salmon to the face, the smelling of the bacon and the wake-up call to realising we just don’t have the same player on our hands.
In a good 40 minutes action, 1 interception, 6/7 passes and no tackles or take ons. Basically making no impact on proceedings what so ever. This isn’t just based on one game either; this is two seasons of concern and now a conclusion of my thoughts. It may seem like flavour of the month at the moment to question Theo and the Ox but it’s not unfounded, there is a real call for worry and especially with Walcott, given we’re now approaching 27 years of age. Questions have to be asked as he comes into his ‘peak’ years.
This season he’s made 25 appearances scoring 6 and assisting 3. Which for 100+ grand a week is not enough – end of. And even worse, since the United home game, yes that beautiful sunny day when everything went so right that it now feels like a life time ago, he has 2 goals and 0 assists in 19 appearances which is rendering him ineffective and given his lack of defensive work and contribution to build up play actually regressive for the side.
But most worrying for me his edge has gone and his edge for me was always his dribbling mixed in with his scintillating pace; he had a great ability to ride challenges when running at high pace making him a real thorn in other team’s sides. Think Liverpool Champions League quarter final or just watch a montage of his 12/13 season. In 12/13 he was averaging 1.5 successful take ons per 90 minutes compared to 1.19 this season and .79 last season.
Where did it all go wrong? Well in true Hollywood fashion his arguably finest hour was his most dire. Playing up front vs the scum from down the road he was electric, everything we wished for, but then disaster struck and he did his ACL. The real ‘Goose hitting the canopy’ moment, the film changed after that and took a darker less enjoyable tone, much like Theo’s career. The moment’s as heart breaking as well. He’s not the only one – you only have to look at Radamel Falcao who went from world star Galactico goal, a game striker, to Chinese fish and chip shop owner. It’s a cruel debilitating injury.
Whether it’s mental and he hesitates getting closer to players or doesn’t have the speed in his change of direction I don’t know but he doesn’t have what he did unfortunately.
Pre ACL in 12/13, his best season, he played 37 games getting 15 goals and 11 assists. In the run up to the ACL injury for what I think would have been his serious ‘I’ve arrived’ season 13/14 15 games 6 goals 4 assists. Which is directly contributing to 36 goals in 52 games which is burgeoning on world class. But unfortunately the post ACL stats highlight the decline last season 14/15 16 apps 5 goals 0 assists and, of that 5 goals 3 are a hattrick vs West Brom and when thrown in with this season’s stats make for a grim 41 games 11 goals 3 assists. Playing for a top club as a striker or a winger that isn’t up to scratch.
With this season it’s becoming a real issue. It’s not enough just scoring in big games like Leicester and City, we don’t need a Geoff Horsfield, this team is crying out for a constant stream of goals from up top and out wide. We can ill-afford passengers in our pursuit of what would be a wonderful double. This really is such a pivotal time for the club; we win the league it breathes fresh air throughout the club bringing the fan base to life again it goes the other way it’s going to become unbearably toxic. The Walcott right winger of 12/13 would be a saving grace at this point. But I think that Theo’s just a distant memory now. So the team’s going to have to find something else.
I only see him fitting in to the team now as a striker but only on the basis the whole team behind him is perfectly balanced and on point a la United and Bayern at home and even then I’d argue he’s not clinical enough. And for the club we’re aspiring to be we need more and Welbeck’s superior to him as a ‘9’ in every department bar maybe composure.
If you’re not going to get involved with play and work as a striker you need to be a penalty box killer like an Ian Wright, Javier Hernandez or even Jermaine Defoe but unfortunately Theo doesn’t have them primeval instincts to be in the right place at the right time 9/10 times.
I really hope he strikes back and proves me wrong but approaching this junction in his career at the end of the season I think it’s time for the club and Theodore James Walcott to go their separate ways and leave me to say goodbye to one of my favourite ever players.