With the number one spot up for grabs for several teams on Boxing Day, Arsenal had to secure three points against West Ham to ensure that it was theirs. The game was always in the Gunners’ favour from the first whistle but with many chances going wide and astray early on, you could always tell that Sam Allardyce’s side had to be clinical, which they were, when gifted a goal by the Arsenal Goalkeeper, Szczesny. An off-form performance from Olivier Giroud provided England winger Theo Walcott the chance to show off his skills as a striker yet again, after grabbing a brace against Manchester City in a 6-3 defeat, and not disappointing getting on the score sheet twice reviving Arsenal’s come back, has certainly done his campaign no harm.
1-0 down after 65 minutes and taking into consideration the time of the year, England’s football fans were beginning to discuss Arsenal’s consistency and doubting that they are capable to see out a full season, suggesting their run so far in 2013 had come to an end. Especially after their last three games in the league have all ended without a win for the Gunners. However, Arsene Wenger’s men showed impressive character and great mentality to prove the doubters wrong by grabbing three goals at Upton Park, and this win shows to many that Arsenal will fight and can genuinely be considered title contenders.
Playing from a wide position, Walcott was constantly playing off the full-back’s shoulder, waiting for balls over the top and a key chance arose from this straight away in the first half; he showed instinct and intelligence to get in the position, however, he lacked the complacency to finish the opportunity. It wasn’t until the 67th minute that another opportunity for Walcott was made and this time his footwork in the box, as well as poor goalkeeping from Adrian, allowed his shot to go through the defenders legs and slipped through the keepers hands to cross the line. Finally, his third shot of the day came three minutes later and was a strange one, because this resulted in Theo Walcott getting his first ever Premier League headed goal, however, by the strength of the header and his positioning to run onto the ball with perfect timing you would guess that he had done this plenty of times before, perhaps something that has come from the training ground. So with 2 out of 3 shots on target, 67% accuracy, and both of the two on target resulting in goals, a seed may have been planted in the managers head to play Theo up front. With more chances, and that conversion rate, it could only mean more goals, which can seriously help Arsenal out across this busy Christmas period.
A crossing accuracy of 38% suggests that Walcott had some joy in crossing as it’s above the average amount of crosses that are accurate; and if you look at where these crosses where actually placed and how they were made you can see that in fact his decision making was spot on and that these chances should have been put away, it is just Arsenal didn’t manage to overload players in the box.
One of the three successful crosses played its part in the final goal as Giroud screamed for the ball and Walcott trusted the marked Frenchman and played the ball exactly where he wanted and the ball, which was then laid off for Podolski to strike the ball into the bottom corner securing all three points.
Creating a total of two chances, one every 45 minutes, does illustrate that maybe he can go through long periods of a game unnoticed and with all the positives from above if Arsenal started to use Walcott a little more, he can increase these statistics and influence Giroud’s goal tally so he can become a golden boot contender as he did with Van Persie two seasons ago.