Is Theo Walcott in a slump or does he just suck?
Since the announcement of his 10 years at Arsenal there has been a meme making the rounds in the comments sections here, and everywhere else I write, that Walcott is simply not good enough for Arsenal. It’s a response to my insistence that Walcott is simply in a slump and that one or two goals might see a flood.
Walcott is in a slump. His main job this season is scoring goals. And in terms of scoring goals, this season is the lowest conversion rate of his career at Arsenal — he is converting just 7.8% of his total shots. That’s below the football average of 9.5% for all shots and well below what we would expect to see from a forward.
Kun Aguero is an amazing forward. Using the data from ESPN and looking at all the competitions he played for Man City (minus friendlies) he had 652 shots from 2010-2016. He has put 290 of those shots on target (44.5%) and has scored 124 goals. 124/652 means that his overall converversion rate for the last 5+ years is 19%.
That’s tough to top.
Lewandowski is scoring at 18% this season in the Bundesliga, Messi 15%, Ronaldo is 14%, Rooney 14%, and Luis Suarez is scoring 25% of his shots — needless to say that’s a career high for Suarez who converted 12% (21/187) in the year Arsenal bid on him and that jumped to 17% the next year.
A lot of those players are their team’s main striker and they are expected to take a lot of shots which will often drive their conversion rates down. If you look at players like Benzema (28%), Neymar (22%), Muller (23%), and the like they average a MUCH higher conversion rate of 20% or more.
All of which is to say that Walcott’s 8% (rounded up) is absolutely not good enough. I’m not biased against Theo, Sanchez is only scoring 10% right now and that also isn’t good enough, especially considering the fact that he score 24/171 shots last season for a 14% conversion rate.
But the reason I have been so high on Walcott coming good is because he has hit that mythical 18% conversion twice in the last 4 years: 2012/13 and 2014/15. In 2012/13 he had a breakout season and scored 21 goals on 111 shots for an 18% conversion rate. He wasn’t playing with a main striker (Giroud only scored 11 League goals that season) so despite his 10 assists and playing wide in that pseudo-support striker Wenger put Walcot in, he wasn’t really a support striker like a Benzema or Neymar.
Now, I know what you’re going to say: 2014/15 doesn’t count because he was injured and took just 38 total shots. Therefore, his conversion rate was skewed because of “sample size”. It’s not sample size but yes the problem is that he scored 7 goals on 38 shots last season. If he had scored 6 goals he would have converted 16%, 5 goals 13%, and so on. But notice that even if he had only scored 4 goals last season (he didn’t, he scored 7) he would have converted above 10%. And this season he is converting around 8%.
If you’ve been paying close attention, you might have noticed that Walcott suffers from Wayne Rooney’s disease: he has one good season followed up by one bad season. And this is, in fact, the pattern we are seeing with Walcott.
But even if this was an “off season” for Walcott his low is still well below his other lows which are all above 10%!
That is the definition of a slump.
- If Walcott had converted 18% of his shots this season he would have scored 12 goals.
- Walcott is currently Arsenal’s most profligate forward, having scored just 2 of 12 big chances. These should be converted at a 40% rate.
- Walcott has never been a ball hog. In his “breakout” season he averaged 16.6 passes per game and he’s down to 14.4 this season, but that can easily be accounted for with him playing through the middle where he is supposed to make runs behind, not drop and collect
- All his passing numbers are down from that high in 2012/13: assists down from 10 to 2, key passes per game 1.3 to 0.8, crosses per game 0.9 to 0.1, even dribbles are down from 1.5 to 1.2.
- Walcott’s shots data, all competitions, source ESPN.com
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