I read with interest Alex’s column from Tuesday. I think Theo really needs to up his game in order to stay at Arsenal. I honestly do not think he can up his defensive game to the level required of him as, in my opinion, he doesn’t have the ability to do so.
Theo is the sort of old-school, Michael Owen-esque striker who sits on the shoulder of the last defender, hoping for them to make a mistake so that he can quickly pounce on the opportunity presented. However, the all-round game of players is always improving and match tactics used by opposition teams have changed a lot in the last two or three years, except Theo’s game hasn’t improved and thus the opportunities for him are harder to come by, as, unlike Alexis, Welbeck and Giroud, Theo does not make his own chances. Theo relies on someone else to supply the pass and that simply does not work with the current tactics and squad that Arsene has assembled.
Let’s go back 30 months to the players we had then in the squad. The entire team is different – where we had Vermaelen and Squillaci, we now have Gabriel. Where we once had Andre Santos and Sagna, we now have Debuchy and Monreal. I hear you shouting from the back that maybe Sagna and Debuchy are comparable defensively but Debuchy strikes me as more of a leader (he was Lille’s Captain for a period).
Of more interest is how the midfield has changed. No longer are we completely reliant on Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky to create chances from midfield – we now have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who was mostly injured before and still picks up the occasional injury now, but I digress), Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to create chances too. There are a few players who have left – Alex Song, Yossi Benayoun (remember him? He secured us 4th place with those two goals vs. West Brom on the final day) and to a lesser extent, Ozyakup and Lansbury. The balance of the midfield has changed – we don’t try to stifle the opposition of late by simply keeping possession, we have changed into a team that tries to soak up pressure from opponents by utilising Coquelin as a holding midfielder, a role which Alex Song refused to do whilst he was here which he now does every week for West Ham – go figure.
Our forward line was very different then too – RvP, Chamakh, Bendtner (loaned out that season to Sunderland I think?), Park Chu-Young and Gervinho have all since left the club, leaving Theo as the only forward remaining at Arsenal from that time period. Only Gervinho was arguably misused by the club and Park was never seen. Would RvP fit back into this team, with its different style? Would Chamakh? My guess is no. Chamakh is, however, turning into a decent hold-up style of forward at Palace, where he is a nuisance to opponents more often than not. We now have Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck as our three main forwards, all of whom have better all-around games than the forwards we had when Theo last signed.
Can Ozil and other midfielders we possess be able to supply passes for Theo to get on the end of and score goals? Yes, obviously. Will Theo work to get into the space for that pass? Yes, quite probably. Will Theo work defensively to win the ball back when we are trying to regain possession? Not on your life. That is why, for me, he is not in the team right now – he simply doesn’t fit the tactics that Arsene Wenger is trying to use. The fact that his contract has about 15 months to run is purely a coincidence – in my opinion, even if he hadn’t been injured and out for so long, Theo would have struggled to get in the team and may possibly have been moved on sooner. When Theo penned his last contract, Fabregas had just left and RvP had one foot out the door so Arsenal needed to save some face by keeping Theo. Unfortunately, he only took the opportunity to improve his wages and not to improve his game, which is why he doesn’t fit so well now.
Where will he move to? For me, either to Liverpool, Manchester United (if he has a desire to play) or Manchester City (if he has a desire to collect a larger pay cheque) – Liverpool and United are both a bit light upfront, while City have a need for English players as they have FFP regulations closing in, so they may be more interested in a swap deal. Would you want anyone from City? The only ones I could think of would be Kolarov or Yaya Toure and I don’t see City being open to swapping out either of those two. So it’s Liverpool or Manchester United for Theo in the summer, as I don’t think he has a future with Arsenal.
What are your thoughts? Let me know!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.