Bought for a princely £16 million, amongst a lot of hype, at an exceptionally early age from Southampton, Theo Walcott has become part of the Arsenal furniture and not in a good way. Often the forgotten or disregarded man in discussion about Arsenal’s lack of a star forward – a new train of thought has been building up momentum. Has Walcott realised his potential in what are considered his ‘prime years’?
If you look at Walcott against his peers in this position he’s been patiently waiting for, you have to remember one important point: the comparison matrix below, provided by Squawka.com, doesn’t take into the fact that Walcott has 12 goals in his last 13 starts in the Premier League. Due to Oliver Giroud’s indifferent start to the season, Walcott has only recently come into the side – as shown by the minutes he’s played compared to his fellow forwards.
The main factor for Walcott’s ability to perform for Arsenal this season is due to his emergence as someone that Arsenal can play off as a pivot. Giroud can play the target-man role well and suits Arsenal when they play their traditional possession style of play. Whilst Walcott perhaps isn’t winning aerial and ground duels to the extent Giroud can, he’s challenging for them. This has always been missing from his game previously, perhaps due to the player not wanting to risk that troublesome shoulder injury that has plagued him since his younger years.
However Arsenal have evolved slightly this year, their best play has come from having a fluid front three, making smart movements in and around the 18-yard line that Mesut Ozil has been able to take advantage of, leading to the German finally receiving the applause from the English media that he deserves.
The comparison matrix above shows that Walcott has now improved his pass completion, a good indicator of his new-found place in Arsenal’s build up play, alongside his take-on percentage’s increase – showing a willingness to take advantage of his good close-ball-control that Walcott has never really previously matched to his speed.
Whilst overshadowed somewhat by Sanchez’s re-emergence as Arsenal’s centre-man – it’s clear that given more game time Walcott can catch up to his England team-mate Jamie Vardy and other Premier League rivals in Graziano Pelle & Romelu Lukaku.
Could we be about to see Walcott over the next few seasons become the Premier League striker many Arsenal fans have been dying to see? The speedy, smart & clinical finisher that we’ve only seen one real season of? One big asterisk to apply to this question is his injury record. It can’t be ignored and any optimists might hope that his body has now matured and will allow Walcott to finish a full season unscathed.
When we have seen a fully fit Walcott last an entire season, it was during the 2012/13, when in 43 appearances Theo Walcott scored 21 goals and finished as Arsenal’s top scorer that season. If Arsene Wenger, the fans & media and Walcott’s body allow him to score – there’s no doubt he will do.