Well-known for his blistering pace, good balance, movement and technique, Theo Walcott is one of the most exciting players to watch and is a very difficult player to defend against. For these reasons, he has been likened to club-hero and all-time leading goal-scorer Thierry Henry by many, including long-serving manager Arséne Wenger. Pep Guardiola said that “you would need a pistol to stop Walcott” after a Champions league match, a testament to the player’s blistering speed. Lionel Messi described him as the “one of the most dangerous players I have played against.”
Many believe that Theo hasn’t lived up to the hype and has under-performed. The dip in his performance could be due a number of factors, including injuries and the presence of ‘certain’ senior players in the squad. It is fair to say that Robin van Persie became a larger-than-life figure at the club, also influencing the performances of other players. Similar to King Henry’s last season at the club, younger players appeared to find it difficult to make a mark in the presence of such senior players. To support my statement, I have compiled some stats about Theo Walcott, with regards to his performances in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
I. Appearances / Discipline:
Due to the speculations surrounding his future, Theo managed to start only 24 games for Arsenal, playing for 2282 minutes and getting booked 3 times. Making a total of 32 appearances in the league, Walcott formed a formidable partnership with Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud. He scored his first Premier League hat-trick in Arsenal’s 7-3 victory over Newcastle United. A temporary dip in form not withstanding, he looked in ominous form throughout the season and helped his club secure a top-four finish. Many believe that this achievement could prove to be the turning moment for Arsenal, who have not won a trophy since lifting the FA Cup under the leadership of club legend Patrick Vieira.
II. Possession – Interceptions:
The stats speak for themselves. With respect to playing time, Walcott seems to have gotten better in terms of keeping possession and controlling the ball. The dip in interception rate may be linked to his deployment as a Central Striker on several occasions.
The real improvements and important things to note are in Walcott’s creativity and attacking zone statistics. The most striking improvement is seen in his goal scoring. Having scored 14 times this season, Walcott’s strike rate (goals per minute) has significantly come down form 343.38 in 2011-12 to 163 in 2012-13 (a change of more than 52.53%). He has had 10 goal assists (a goal assist every 228 minutes). His shooting accuracy, along with the dribbling accuracy has improved. Walcott has created a goal scoring chance every 60 minutes, and has had a conversion rate of 23% in 2012-13, as compared to 14% in 2o11-12.
Things looked worse than ever after the much talked about transfer of Robin van Persie. The problems were further aggravated with speculations surrounding the futures of Walcott and Sagna. It was believed that the two could be sold in the winter transfer window, instead of losing them for free. With Walcott signing a 3-year contract extension (making him one of the club’s highest earners) and Sagna committing his immediate future to the club, speculations were put to rest and Arsenal started an impressive run at the tail-end of the season, eventually helping them finish above local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
There was never any doubt about the talent and potential of Theo Walcott. He was often criticized for not doing justice to the talent he possessed. It looked like football was about to lose another exciting talent, until 2012. While many criticized Wenger for losing RvP so easily, it was a master-piece from the old man to move on the player to pave the way for the rise to prominence of players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Being one of the most experienced players in the squad, Theo Walcott could play an instrumental role in the years to come as Arsenal look to rebuild with an improved financial situation.
Please note that the comparisons and inferences are based purely on statistics, which may not always correlate with the actual performances of the players. Some of you may have a different point of view or may look at the statistics differently, so feel free to share it with me here or on twitter ( @SilverHawk_24 ). Until next week, this is me signing off, hoping for another clinical performance from the 3 players in the pre-season tour matches.
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]