Tag Archives: Walcott

Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea: sportsmanship, Ox, Cech, Theo, and beating Chelsea

By Tim Todd, Gladhander

Good morning everyone. Just a few notes on the game yesterday before I have to take my truck in to get the locks repaired.

First, it’s always funny to see how many people are duped by Jose and his handshakes. If you have any lingering doubt that Mourinho intentionally uses handshakes as part of his little mindgames and one-uppmanship, let me give you a couple of examples.

First off, he likes to go over and shake hands before games are over. He actually does it all the time. He tried to do it to Roy Keane and Neil Warnock and they refused him. The British press had a field day with that one, of course blaming Keane and Warnock. Because you know, handshakes are important.

Sportsmanship, however, is more than just handshakes. Sportsmanship means that you don’t run 50 yards down the pitch to celebrate in front of the opposition manager and then try to shake his hand before the full time whistle. That’s what Moruinho does. That’s the opposite of sportsmanship.

Second, he has done this thing where he shakes all the players’ hands before but he did it in the dressing room last time. It was after Chelsea’s 4-2 loss to Bradford (incidentally, he tried to shake hands with Phil Parkinson before the full-time whistle but the Bradford manager refused) in the FA Cup. But he did that behind closed doors. This was the first time that he stood at the end of the line like it was a wedding reception and he was the bride, making everyone shake his hand. And more importantly, this was the first time he did it in front of the camera as the opposition team was going to celebrate in front of their fans.

But what makes the whole thing so glaringly fake is the words he says right after his little public display. In his post match interview he is anti-congratulatory! He said that Arsenal “found themselves ahead 1-0 for no reason” that “Chelsea dominated the game and had all of the initiative” and that Chelsea were basically the better team and Arsenal didn’t have any reason to think they should win the game.

That’s why no one should shake his hand — ever. Because he’s going to look you in the eye and say “congrats” and then turn around, 30 seconds later, and tell everyone why you didn’t deserve to win.

And what about Oxlande-Chamberlain’s goal? That was a goal which was deserving of a win. The Ox (or AOC who plays for AFC) has shown some real signs of growth already this year. He’s a right footed player and mostly plays on the right for Arsenal. This normally relegates a player to whipping in crosses. But what makes Ox special is that he can and does dribble to his left. Which is exactly how he beat his man in the Chelsea match.

Ox is also a highly right-footed shooter, taking most of his shots with his right foot but again as you saw against Chelsea, he fired in a rifle with his left foot. So, again, and not to pound the Jose drum, but for Mourinho to say that we got the goal out of nothing or didn’t deserve the goal is simply sour grapes. Oxlade-Chamberlain beat Chelsea with a magnificent individual effort, dribbling to his weak side and shooting with his weak foot. If anything deserved to beat Chelsea, it was that.

The other thing I watched pretty closely was Petr Cech’s play. Cech looked like the real deal as a keeper for me. Just two things illustrate what I mean.

The first is that Cech is a vastly experienced ‘keeper so he has an innate understanding of his goal and the space around it. When Ramires shot his header, Cech went up and it looked like he was going to palm the ball away. But he didn’t because he knew that Ramires’ shot was over the bar. There was another shot, past the far post, which he just let go, again, because he seemed to know that the shot had no chance. By just the simple fact that he knew he didn’t have to make a save, Cech probably saved Arsenal two corners. That seems like a small thing but against a club like Chelsea who look to score on Arsenal from corners, it’s actually a big deal.

The second is that Cech punched John Terry in the head. Now, I know it’s normal to want to punch JT in the head, but I think it showed a level of aggression and fearlessness that I want from my keeper. Arsenal are a small team, the opposition is going to look to score off crosses, corners, and set plays. This is especially true for a team with Fabregas who is basically the Spanish David Beckham. So, Arsenal need a keeper who can come out to help his defense with these aerial balls from set plays. What I hope happens is that Arsenal get significantly better dealing with these types of attacking plays this season. Arsenal were the worst in the league at them last year and frankly have always struggled with this aspect of the game.

The other thing is, and I don’t know where this started, but there’s this weird thing that people say now about Theo Walcott; that he makes runs which frees up space for others. It’s a neat little twist on “facts” because it’s something that I suspect is impossible to prove. Even if you could get two people to agree on what this means it would be even more impossible to show that it has any positive effect. Unless there are situations where you can show me Theo Walcott taking a defender away and then someone popping up into that space and scoring (or assisting) I’m going to have to relegate this to one of those myths about Walcott. I’ll look for it, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist (because that’s proving a negative), but I don’t see it.

The other myth about Walcott is that in the Charity Shield, Chelsea “denied him space” and stayed compact. That is patently untrue. Chelsea played a high line with loads of space in behind. Walcott was simply far too static in that game and it showed in his stats. 10 touches in 65 minutes, for a center forward, is shocking. Instead of standing around smelling John Terry’s breath, Walcott should have been dropping deep to collect the ball and get his teammates involved or “making runs in behind” the line. But he didn’t — he didn’t even have an offside.

You could see how much better Arsenal got in the counter attack when Giroud came on. Arsenal had 8 shots in the time Giroud was on and just 3 in the 65 minutes Walcott was on. Not only that but the Arsenal shots were big chances. Giroud wasn’t sitting around winning headers, either. He dropped, collected, played the ball to a runner, and then made a run himself. Textbook center forward play.

I know that people will freak out now because I’ve criticized Walcott, but don’t worry a hair on your head. I like Walcott. I’m certain he’s the kind of player we need at Arsenal if we have any chance of winning the League title. I just think he had a lazy stinker of a game against Chelsea. Yep. And I know he got an “assist” by passing the ball to Ox, who then beat two men and a keeper.

Anyway, all day Sunday I was buzzing. I even wore my Arsenal shirt (the Highbury commemorative shirt with Bergkamp on the back) out in public. Beating Chelsea is sweet enough but beating Mourinho is even sweeter. It reminds me of how we beat United at Old Trafford and then went on to win the FA Cup.

One by one it feels like Arsenal are shedding the chains of the past. Spend some mucking funny? Arsene bought Ozil and Alexis. Keep our best players? Only Plodoski was sold and Wenger just locked down Walcott and Santi to long term deals. Arsenal are a “foreign team”? Ladies and gents: Walcott, Wilshere, Ox, Gibbs, Welbeck, Ramsey, Chambers, etc. Team constantly injured? Shad Forsythe (though, Wilshere is still being “rested”). No plan B? I’ve seen plans A,B,C, and D in this team (possession, pressing, sitting deep, and countering). Can’t beat United? Welbeck helped us.  Can’t beat Mourinho? Oxlade-Chamberlain helped us. Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in 10 years? Back to back FA Cups and Charity Shields (not a trophy).

It feels great. I feel lighter. I am so looking forward to this season. And now that we’ve beaten both United and Chelsea, here’s hoping we play them both as many times as possible this season.

Bring it on.

Qq

walcott-mask

Theo Walcott would be a luxury signing but he might just help Arsenal win the League

By Tim Todd, Flip Floppist

It’s funny how I have a tendency to say one thing and then to change my mind, literally, three days later. Maybe it’s not that I change my mind but rather I might soften my position on something. But it’s a fact, that when presented with new data, I simply admit that I might be wrong.

I’ve gotten used to being wrong because it happens to me all the time. I suspect that most people are wrong a lot more then they admit but with me the problem is multiplied by the fact that I have a blog, and it’s read by literally threes or even fours of people, and the fact that I sometimes speak from my intuition rather than from a place of facts and knowledge.

I trust my intuition. My ability to see through things, notice minor details, and to pay attention to things that other people would normally miss – especially bodily clues from human beings – was sharpened on the steel edge of my father’s parenting. So, when I say that I see something different in Theo Walcott’s body language, as I did two days ago after watching him play in the friendly against Everton, I’m telling you that he’s setting off my intuition.

Something was different about Walcott: he seemed more poised, he seemed more powerful, he seemed more determined — he surprised me in that game with the ferocity of his shots and with the way he got behind defenders. He set off my intuition.

Where I go wrong after that is that I draw a conclusion based on my intuition. Rather than simply say “did you notice that Theo seemed different?” I will say “he looks to me like he’s going to score 30 goals next season” or some such nonsense. It’s funny when I do that because it’s classic prejudice or bias and I like to paint myself as intellectually aloof or rational. I guess I’m not as rational as I like to think. Or maybe I’m just a tad too impulsive? Either way, it’s slightly annoying and one of my many flaws. 

Theo Walcott never fails to generate controversy when the topic of whether he is “worth X per week” or whether he should just “sign da ting” is brought up. But I have yet to see a definitive answer on Walcott’s value from a trusted source. Someone to just come along and say “yep, he’s worth X and here’s why.” And the problem is that I don’t know if we can have a definitive answer on Walcott’s value because there are too many complicating factors.

First, his injury record is atrocious: in his first three seasons at the club he had both shoulders operated on. And two seasons ago he tore his ACL and that limited him to just 39 appearances in those two years. That’s just crazy. Anyone who wants to say that Arsenal shouldn’t re-sign him can just point to his injury record. He may very well recover fully from this and go on to have another 5 year career as a top striker but that is a hell of a gamble to take on a player.

Second, on 16 March 2016, Theo Walcott will turn 27 and will have been with the club for 10 years. That means he is 26 years old, the same age as Alexis Sanchez. How long of a contract do you give that man? Do you give him 4 years? Keep him around until he’s 31? Considering his injury record? My intuition meter is telling me that this is probably the sticking point in this round of contract negotiations: he wants a five year deal and Arsenal don’t want to give it to him. That’s just pure speculation of course and I don’t want that to be the main thing you all talk about.

But, as of right now, Walcott has made 192 starts and 111 subs. He has 302 appearances for Arsenal in 9 seasons and has scored just 76 goals.  That’s a goal every 4 games. Walcott is 26 years old, he’s got a history of injury, and bar one season, he’s never really produced at the top level.

Here is a chart of Walcott’s output since 2009, the year after his second shoulder op. Data below is his combined Premier League and Champions League output. I’m not cherry picking data by doing that, I’m actually including all of the data available on WhoScored.com. If his cup competition data was available I would include it, it is not, so I can not.

On the right, I then average Walcott’s 2009-2015 PL and CL output under the misnomer “Career” average. And on the far right, I put Alexis Sanchez’ data from last season with Arsenal. And just to be extra nice to Theo Walcott, I think his 2012/2013 season is his benchmark and so I highlighted that in bold.

I compared Theo with Alexis because both players are 26 years old, both are right footed, both play wide for Arsenal, and both want to play centrally. I think it’s a very fair comparison. Walcott should offer what Alexis offers, especially if Walcott wants Alexis money and an Alexis length contract.

Walcott

As you can see, one of the things that Theo excels at is getting shots on target. And his shots per goal ratio is pretty good, especially in his high water mark season. This actually connects well with my intuition: that Walcott is a good finisher.

The problem is that unlike Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott doesn’t do much else for the team. He’s not a dribbler, his key passes are fairly poor, and his defensive work is basically non-existent: if you add up all the tackles he’s made in Champions League and Premier League play since 2009, he has 2 fewer tackles than Alexis Sanchez made this season alone.

If Arsenal are adopting the system that Naveen, Tim Stillman, and I all think that he is — pressing without the ball — then Walcott’s lack of defensive work becomes a major liability. It’s not like he’s incapable of doing the work, or that he lacks the footballing brain to figure out how, he’s just never shown a desire for defense. Watch Alexis Sanchez for five minutes, he simply wants the ball back and he will harass anyone with it to win it.

The data shows me, then, that Theo Walcott is basically a one-trick-pony. This is the thing I warned against when fans wanted Arsenal to buy Falcao. Falcao is a goal scorer and nothing else and we saw how spectacularly that failed at Man U last season: he can’t hold the ball up (Walcott), he’s not really a distributor (Walcott), he doesn’t win aerial duels (Walcott), he’s incapable of dribbling to break down defenders (Walcott), and unless he gets to be the main target of the offense he won’t offer much else to the team (Walcott).

Here again is a comparison of Alexis and Theo. This time I take all of Walcott’s Champions League and Premier League data and prorate it over a “per90″ basis. In other words, here is what Walcott’s averages look like had he been healthy and played as much as Alexis Sanchez did for Arsenal last season.

Walexis

Once again, Walcott is clearly a good shooter and a good finisher but offers very little else to the team. In his high water mark season (2012/13) he scored 15 goals in PL and CL play. If you multiply Walcott’s 2009-2015 PL and CL averages per90 goals ratio by 38 games you get 16 goals. I think realistically, that’s what Walcott offers: a per90 prorated 16 goals a season.

If Arsenal were Man City, there would be no question; with a per90 16 goals a season ratio and not much else to offer, they would just sign him and play him when they could and where they want on the pitch. He would be a backup on that team, he would make up squad numbers, and help them with their homegrown quota. In that sense, Walcott is a luxury signing.

It’s a coincidence that Falcao and Walcott are similar players – both just goal scorers. And it’s no real criticism of Walcott to say “he’s just a goal scorer”. You need goals to win games. But that’s why it’s not a coincidence that Man U signed Falcao last season and that Chelsea signed him this season. Falcao scored important goals and I think he earned Man U eight points last season, that was the difference between finishing 4th and 6th last season. So, signing those kinds of players, and paying them over the odds, is exactly what big clubs do — especially if they want to win the Premier League.

Qq

walcott-2

Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck, and Ox: could they score the 10-15 goals Wenger is looking for?

By Tim Todd

The buzz word among the players at Arsenal’s Singapore sling has been “fitness”. And it’s little wonder that the players who seem most keen to “get fit” this season are the ones who spent most of last season on the sick table.

Wilshere said that he returned to training early this year in order to get a jump start on his fitness. Looking forward to the season ahead and whether he would get chances to start for Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain said, “First and foremost, you have to do everything you can to stay fit, so I’m working on that.” And Wenger hinted that both of those players need full fitness in order to play at their very best,

He always had appetite Jack, but he was out for a long time. Already in the last two or three games of the season he has found his burst back with acceleration. Like with Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] that’s a big part of their game. To be very efficient they need that and that demands physically to be perfect. He’s getting close now.

But more than just Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who have been perennially plagued by injury, Welbeck and Walcott have also sat out large stretches of the season. And no matter how good someone’s “per90″ stats look (Walcott’s 5 goals were scored in 442 minutes making him a 38 goal a season striker according to per90) what really matters is overall contribution to the team. And you can’t contribute if you don’t play.

Last season in Premier League play, Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox combined for just 4336 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 48 full matches for those four players. They also managed to combine for 12 goals scored, which is a decent amount of contribution for the limited minutes that they played.

But honestly, for me it’s this core of British players who need to step up next season. Of course, they need to work on their fitness so that they can get more games but also, and more importantly, they need to contribute to the overall goals haul of the team. They are all forwards in the Arsenal system. Even Jack Wilshere, who is deployed in the holding midfield role for England, will play in the wide forward roles according to Wenger. And those forwards need to score more goals.

As Arsenal closed out the season in roaring good fashion, Arsene Wenger famously said that Arsenal only needed to add 10 goals to their total in order to challenge for the Premier League Title. 10 additional goals (depending on when they were scored, a 10-0 blowout of Spurs would be nice but only adds 3 points) would have put Arsenal in second place behind Man City on goals scored and even with them on goal difference. And I can’t help but think at least one of those 10 goals that Wenger is imagining would have been taken in one of the five games that Arsenal were held scoreless or been enough to push Arsenal over the edge to a win in one of the 8 draws.

And I think Wenger has the players on his squad to do it. It’s not unrealistic to think that Walcott could play 25 games and score 10, doubling his output from last season. Or that Welbeck could play the same number of games and score 8 goals and that Wilshere and Ox could combine for a total of 6. That doubles their output from last season, easily.

Some will say that this is a huge gamble but I would say that all transfers are gambles. You could buy Lacazette for £25m and he could spend most of the season injured. Or he could turn out to be a one-season wonder like Drmic two years ago. With every Sanchez in the transfer market, there seem to be a dozen Bentekes. So, it makes sense that Wenger is conservative in the transfer market and aggressive in developing his players: best to work with the clay you already know.

Wenger will still buy, if a big name player becomes available. If someone like Benzema is pushed out at Real Madrid, I have no doubt that Arsene will jump at the chance to improve the team. But unless a proven top quality striker, which is always a hot commodity, becomes available, my bet is that Wenger will gamble on the fitness of Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox.

Regardless of what happens in the transfer market, this is a big season for Arsenal’s British core and if they improve their fitness and if they can improve their goal scoring, it could be a big season for the Arsenal.

Player 15/16 Games (guess) Goals (guess) 14/15 Games Goals
Sanchez 30 14 35 16
Giroud 30 15 27 14
Ramsey 30 6 29 6
Cazorla 30 1 37 7
Özil 30 5 22 4
Koscielny 30 3 27 3
Walcott 25 10 14 5
Welbeck 25 8 25 4
Bellerin 20 2 20 2
Wilshere 30 4 14 2
Rosicky 0 0 15 2
Ox 30 2 23 1
Chambers 10 0 23 1
Debuchy 18 2 10 1
Flamini 0 0 23 1
Gibbs 18 1 22 0
Monreal 20 1 28 0
Coquelin 23 1 22 0
Mertesacker 35 1 35 0
Arteta 15 1 7 0
Paulista 15 1 6 0