Tag Archives: Theo Walcott


Theo Walcott is the striker you wanted and you didn’t even know you wanted him

This summer Arsenal supporters clamored for Arsene Wenger to spend some money and bring in a ‘big name’ striker. Someone like Benzema who could come in and take Olivier Giroud’s starting spot.

Wenger looked at all his options, saw the market for what it was, exemplified by the spending of Chelsea: £25m for Pedro, one of the most overrated forwards to come into the League, watched as Chelsea loaned Juan Cuadrado and Mo Salah out for huge losses, and took a beating on Andre Shurrlle last season, he also saw how they spent £12m on Remy, and then had to take on Falcao and his odious contract, and despite all that spending they still don’t have a world class striker. Wenger saw that market and handed Theo Walcott a new £140k a week¹ contract and said “you want to be a forward? Prove it.”

Wenger planted the seeds for this transformation last season when he gave Theo the starting forward spot against West Brom (4-1 win, Walcott hattrick) and in the FA Cup final against Villa (first goal, left footed volley). It was a shrewd move on Wenger’s part because Theo Walcott’s best attribute is his movement and that’s something that takes time for teammates to learn. Özil, Alexis, and Cazorla all have to learn how to anticipate one of Walcott’s back door runs in tight spaces or how to get him the ball in the more open counter attacking spaces. It’s not all just poke and hope or lump and let Walcott run under it — that’s how clubs like Sunderland play — you have to get Walcott the ball in a great scoring position.

As I have mentioned here and on Arseblog News, Arsenal have created more big chances than any other team: twenty six big chances so far. Arsenal have also created forty-eight shots in prime, which is tied with Man City for most dangerous attacking output in that category. Walcott has been the main beneficiary of those big chances, he’s seen 9 of them already in the Premier League. That number is kind of amazing because Walcott didn’t get his first big chance until the Newcastle match. And again, not coincidentally, that was the first competitive match he started as a center forward for Arsenal this season².

What Walcott offers Arsenal isn’t just movement but the fact that his movement creates space for others. He has a few signature runs that he likes to make and not only do they get him into a dangerous area but those runs drag defenders out of shape and create space around the edge of the 18 yard box. This in turn benefits players like Alexis and Ozil and it’s no small coincidence that Alexis and Walcott have teamed up for several goals and assists for each other. Both player’s movement creates space for the other.

All players have benefits and drawbacks. Walcott is not going to be a great header of the ball, he’s not going to be a traditional hold-up man, and he’s not going to be the kind of player who breaks defenses with a dribble in tight spaces³. But he doesn’t have to do all of that because Wenger has very sneakily built a team which can shoulder those burdens for him. Alexis, Ox, and Cazorla are Arsenal’s top three dribblers. Alexis and Ox do their dribble work in attack while Cazorla mostly dribbles out of trouble in the midfield.

Arsenal also seems geared toward getting Alexis the ball in the air. He leads the team in headed shots with 7 and though he only has the one headed goal (two in all competitions, he scored against Leicester (Ozil lob) he also scored one against Olympiacos (Walcott lob)), he probably would have three already if the dubious goals panel hadn’t awarded an own goal for Crystal Palace when I felt Alexis got that header (from Bellerin lob) on target.

So, Wenger has great dribblers around Walcott, he’s got players with great vision feeding Walcott the ball, he’s got Walcott pulling defenders apart with his movement and creating space for the Arsenal attack, and he’s got a surprising player in Alexis to win balls in the air. It looks a lot like Arsenal got the upgrade on Giroud that everyone wanted this summer.

Breakdown of Walcott’s goals and assists this season

Walcott’s first goal this season: Stoke City, tackled away by Coquelin, pass by Özil over the top, Walcott control, right foot shot into the left corner.

Walcott second goal: Dinamo Zagreb, defensive header forward by Coquelin, pass by Alexis over the top, Walcott sprint, opens his body shoots right footed into the lower right corner.

Walcott third: Leicester, Alexis pass forward to Cazorla, Cazorla through ball to Walcott, Walcott left foot finish bottom right corner.

Walcott fourth: Olympiacos, Alexis through ball, Walcott tight angle right foot, keeper hand, ball over keeper.

Walcott first assist: Olympiacos, Ramsey wins ball on the edge of the box, Cazorla pass to Walcott, Walcott chip-cross, Alexis header.

Walcott second assist: Cazorla wins the ball deep, passes to Ozil, Ozil to Walcott, Walcott back to Ozil on the penalty spot.

Walcott third assist: Ramsey wins throw in, dribbles past Young, passes to Walcott, Walcott spins and plays the ball with his left foot to Alexis wide, Alexis dribbles a man, scores with long shot.

Charity shield assist for Walcott: play from the back, Mertesacker to Cazorla, Cazorla wins the ball in a tackle, Koscielny plays it back to him, Cazorla dinks it over to … who passes to Walcott, Walcott slides it to Ox, Ox dribbles and scores left footed.


¹Grain, salt: that figure is reported in the Mail. We don’t know what amount of money he’s actually on but the point is that Walcott got a new contract, a pay raise, and the opportunity to prove himself in the center forward role.
²He started as a CF in the Charity Shield, but that is a friendly and doesn’t count. Also, he didn’t have any big chances in that game so it doesn’t fit my narrative…
³Because I know someone will quote stats or post a video, he has beaten defenders off the dribble in the past, but we all know that’s not his forte. He’s not like an Alexis or Ox. Just to prove my point: Walcott has had four successful (of 9 attempted) take-ons this season. Coquelin has had 12 (of 12). Walcott’s not a dribbler.

Man at the match; Chary: Theo buttresses scoring junks

A swiftly taken, and started, first half hatrick from Theo Walcott ensured the most relaxed atmosphere to an end of season game for an age as the Arsenal set themselves up nicely for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 4-1 win against Pullis’ West Brom.

The expected rotation was there, Gabriel for Kozzer and Walcott for Giroud, in addition to the replacement of Gibbs for Monreal and Jack for Ramsey from the previous game.

However neither Santi nor Alexis got the breather I felt they needed, but then that may have been too much change for a game in which victory was desirable as it would set the mood for the FA Cup preparations.

Only the most doom laden Gooner would have feared losing third spot today as a seven goal swing was required for that to happen and fearing a repeat of the previous weekends performance from the today’s opposition against Chelsea some would argue pre match concerns like this were not entirely invalid.

Surely any Pullis side would be defensively tight, unadventurous and looking to frustrate ?

Panoramic from North Bank

Panoramic from North Bank

Having taken my seat in the north bank lower within a few minutes of the start I could see this was not the case, even though Arsenal were attacking the Clock End, as usual, in the first half and my sub par vision would make details hard to pick out.

West Brom looked to push forward early on and hence left gaps behind them, which after a short time was the wrong tactic.

A threaded ball from Santi found Theo wide right, who then unleashed an unstoppable rising drive that gave the Baggies keeper no chance.

Instant relief and the crowd could relax as the mini goal drought ended less than five minutes into the game.

Distant view after Theo scores

Distant view after Theo scores

And so started the Wembley songs which then continued for the rest of the afternoon.

In addition to the relatively open nature of the game another feature was Jack’s surging runs through the middle of the park, which drew much appreciation from the crowd, one of these led to some interchange with Özil that fired a cross into the West Brom box which Theo efficiently dispatched for his second.

Barely had we stopped cheering Theo’s brace then another attack led to some ping pong n the away penalty area which the Baggie’s defenders failed to clear and a lose ball was rifled in by Jack for the third.

The English core had now scored three goals and the ludicrous bad luck that dogged Arsenal’s goal attempts in the last three games was well and truly banished.

A Pullis side surrendering so tamely didn’t seem right and looking at the man himself he watched impassively, arms folded, without even attempting to look at all concerned.

The only semblance of order was a touch of the Stoke City’s that whenever there was a West Brom goal kick, as the ball looped down, the West Brom player was always giving out a sneaky shove to the Arsenal player attempting the clearing header.

The Baggies still came forward, even at three down, however Berahino’s early threat seemed to subside and all their approach play seemed to fizzle out impotently.

At three nil up a surge of exiting Gooners making for front of the queue for half time food missed Theo’s hat trick goal as Santi completed a move involving Özil, Alexis and Jack by firing across the goal for Theo to tap in a poachers goal.

Sign him up Arsène!
Sign da ting !

Half time came and as the score in the Stoke-Scousers game was flashed up much delirium ensued, clearly Stevie Me’s swansong would not end well as Liverpool were being battered 5-nil by Pullis’ former charges.

After such a breathless, enthralling first half, the second would struggle not to be an anti climax, and a weird starting second half it was.

First off Hector went lunging into the West Brom number 11 and received an unnecessary yellow card and then indecision in the the Arsenal defence led to a corner.

Then, after having looked so secure for nearly all his time in goal, Ospina seemed to flap at the corner and let a header in.

The excessive/ironic celebration of the Baggies fans at this point was the highlight of their day and only a mild irritant to the home support.

With the FA Cup in mind some of Arsène’s prospective starting 11 were taken off, Coquelin and then Theo to take the applause for his masterful hatrick; only the most churlish of us would take his little wave to the west stand as he walked off as a “wave goodbye”.

To my eyes if Villa allow us space to play then Theo should start; if not his replacement today, Olly, should start. Luckily that difficult decision is not mine to make.

Finally Jack was replaced by the Ox and the reception he got proved that his mid season indiscretions had been forgiven and his on field efforts very much appreciated.

The introduction of Ramsay and the Ox didn’t stop the fluidity of the mid field and chances were still being created.

Özil corner

Özil corner

Alexis, as ever, never stopped running and when one of his jinks into the opposition penalty area came to nothing, the crowd showed their appreciation and encouragement with his “Alexis baby” song – I don’t think he knows it his song yet as he just kept his head down while walking back to his position after play restarted.

Cheer up Alexis, every Gooner loves you !

A fifth goal would have been great and a Ramsay shot cannoned off the post as the game drew to a close.

Close from Rambo

Close from Rambo

The end of season feeling was confirmed when the fourth official didn’t bother signalling how much added time there would but when the final whistle blew it was with satisfaction the crowd showed their thanks for the result of the game.

Five points clear of fourth placed ManUre with no annoying Champions League pre qualifier to mess up pre season for the lads, I’d a taken that after our slow League start.

The lap of appreciation started with the handful of West Brom fans remaining holding up a plea on behalf of Sweden for Olsson, which seemed odd as he looked rather clumsy and unathletic on today’s showing, the Swedes must be desperate.

Olsson request

Olsson request

So we wait for the season climax next Saturday for our shot at another trophy; sadly for me I won’t be going as tickets are extremely hard to come by so I’ll thank you the readers for staying with me this season and I’ll see you in the 15/16 season.

Players Lap

Players Lap


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match; Chary: Birmingham Villa swatted aside by Mesut and Santi

A solitary first half goal, well taken by Olly Giroud from a sublime Özil flick, was no portent for the avalanche of goals in the second half as a very ordinary Villa side capitulated with four more conceded in the second half, the fifth the cherry on the scoring cake.

With Saturday’s results all going for the teams around the Arsenal the was no margin for error and an out of sorts Villa looked like the ideal opposition.

The Arsenal pre match warm up

The Arsenal pre match warm up

My seat in the North Bank lower was in front of the warm up area for the playing members of the squad where Chesney, while firing in corner kicks for Ospina to collect, seemed to have a chastened look on his face.

The away support were no doubt hoping for a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season where the resulting home defeat led to much angst amongst the Gooner faithful.

The Birmingham Villa contingent

The Birmingham Villa contingent

Selection wise the expected unavailability of Alexis seemed to cause less consternation than it would have done earlier in the season, a reflection of the current better squad depth with Theo and Özil starting and Monreal replacing Gibbs at the back – a very strong looking side and a healthy bench, with possibly only the substitute striker department being inexperienced, Welbeck instead of Chubby Akpom would have been preferrable.

Soon after kick off a chance fell to Theo and as is the case nowadays the modern day supporter displays schitzoid tendencies by screeching with derision when a player doesn’t bury every chance, as a voice from behind me indicated. To be fair Walcott did show signs of rustiness as later in the game he would race to the touch line to keep a ball in but he approached the ball from the wrong side to scoop it back in, a basic error.

Another voice would say:

“This lot are rubbish, we should be getting at least four against them”

In comparison to Theo’s awkwardness Özil was gliding around the pitch with his trademark panache and pretty soon a lofted ball from the centre landed in his ambit, then a sublime flick from Mesut and Olly collected then slammed home to open the scoring.

Long distance view of Olly's goal

Long distance view of Olly’s goal

With the number of crucial goals the big Frenchman has been scoring lately the English media will have to tone down their accusation of him being a flat track bully; yes it was against lowly Villa but the first goal in any game is crucial.

After conceding fairly early Vila had to step up the pace of their game and then Coquelin’s worth came into view – he provided a robust presence in the middle of the pitch which Arsenal have lacked for a while. His tackling was generally clean and on the spot even if he may concede a few fouls but in the hurly burly of any midfield this almost inevitable.

While Coquelin’s bustling presence was a new pleasure to behold, a not so new one was Santi’s dazzling close control, where he seems to pluck lofted passes to him out of the air and caress the ball with ease.

The only Villa players that caught my eye were for naughty infringements – Benteke (as slow and as lumbering a striker as you will ever see) barging Kozzer as he was about to head a Villa cross clear, and another barge from the rotund Villa number 5 on Ramsey as he was jumping into a header.

Özil continued to ghost across all areas and, with Santi, pick and tease apart Villa’s defence to the extent that as half time approached the Ashburton Grove crowd felt the Arsenal should have been two or three up, with only some good saves by the bald Villa keeper and the woodwork preventing the half time lead from being greater.

The Villa manager must have had the hair dryer out as for about ten minutes after the start of the second half the away team actually pressed forward with purpose and Ospina’s calm, composed keeping continued to shine through.

Every Villa cross, and forward foray, caused little concern amongst the home support as the feeling was that Ospina would deal with it – no panic, just unflappability.

This being the first time I’d seen our Colombian keeper I hadn’t heard the call from the Gooner support when he would take a goal kick:

Osss-peeeeeeeeee-na !

A tad childish, but good fun and also something that may make Chesney grimace at the thought of how popular his counterpart has become so quickly.

As Villa saw no way past the twin shields of Coquelin and Ospina a breakaway attack led to Olly threading a ball through to Özil who calmly slotted home for the second. One goal and one assist already and our record signing looking well on the way to a return to form.

With his mid field partner in wizardry, Santi Cazorla, Özil weaved a spell on the Villa players that left them chasing shadows to the extent that somehow the BFG on one occasion found himself driving into the Villa penalty box and slotting over a cross that just eluded the Arsenal strikers – Beckenbauer-esque !

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Again Santi found another perfect through ball and Theo ran onto it and finished instinctively, the best way for our number 14 and the match was safe at three nil to the good guys.

As expected the same voice who admonished Theo for fluffing the early chance was singing “Theo, Theee-oo!” the loudest of all just then.

With the game won a flurry of substitutions saw Tomas “Rockin” Rosicky and Chubby Akpom come on, the latter to replace Giroud who was by then visibly wincing from a first half collision with the Villa back line.

Having seen little of Chubby it was interesting to see what he brought to our attack. On the basis of today’s cameo a more controlled version of Sanogo’s energy maybe.

That drive saw him latch onto a pass into the penalty area and to my eyes he appeared to take a heavy first touch but somehow the Villa keeper was deemed to have fouled him after he lost control of the ball. Having had more than our fair share of penalties denied we were all happy to take one that probably wasn’t deserved.

Up stepped our man of the moment Santi (who had received the PFA player of the month award before kickoff) and to rub salt into the wound the Villa keeper got a hand to the penalty but only succeeded in parrying the ball onto the post and seeing it ricochet into the net, four nil.

A cheeky chap in the big screen video control room then showed a close up of the Villa keeper kicking the post in frustration after Santi wheeled off in celebration to much mirth in the home support.

A final flourish was the fifth goal, where after the usual Arsenal succession of probing passes around the penalty area a pass allowed Bellerin to run onto the ball in a line towards the goal and it seemed he’d decided, “enough of this fannying around, I’ll slam this one”.

Hector makes it 5

Hector makes it 5

A well deserved debut goal and the BFG’s usual applause for the crowd was in the upbeat mood befitting a thumping five nil victory.

The BFG thanks the gooners

The BFG thanks the gooners

While the opposition was not especially testing it was a resounding win that sets us up nicely for a trip to the swamplands of the Middlesex reprobates next weekend.

Last word to a couple of Villa fans overheard in their high-pitched whingeing Brummy accents in the queue for the station:

“I thought they’d be shit without Sanchez”

One man team? Emphatically not.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)