Tag Archives: Walcott

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Walcott: should he stay or should he go?

Every single time I post anything about anything on Twitter I get the following questions:

  1. What do you think of Morata?
  2. Should we sell Walcott/Ox/etc?

My Answers are always:

  1. Never seen him play football
  2. No comment

The Walcott one is starting to bother me, though. Walcott is a player who has never so much as come within a millimeter of uniting fan opinion. His entire 10 year career at Arsenal has been nothing but a long exercise in dividing opinions.

Walcott, however, does join two things. He is the last remaining player to have practiced with Thierry Henry and the other legends from the invincibles era. He is the last remaining player from the Highbury era and connects the old stadium to the new.

Walcott is 27 years old. He has played in 354 Arsenal matches. He has scored 85 goals for Arsenal. In 10 seasons that’s an average of 35 matches a season and 8.5 goals. Not bad for a player who cost just £12m and who spent his almost his entire career on the right side of midfield.

It’s interesting to compare the reception that Tomas Rosicky received on his ten year anniversary at Arsenal to the calumny that Walcott has received on his ten years. At the same time that people have penned paeans to the joy of Rosicky others have called for Walcott to be tossed away like an old piece of fruit.

Rosicky we are reminded scored beautiful goals against Tottenham. I will never forget the moment Rosicky’s hair caught afire as he streaked down the right against Spurs and then with flames at his heels, collected a dropped pass from OX and blasted an unstoppable right footer into the left side netting.

Meanwhile, Walcott has also scored important goals against Tottenham. Walcott’s most punished teams are Newcastle (6), Tottenham (5), and Chelsea (5). Walcott’s had his iconic moments against Spurs and Chelsea as well. Have we forgotten the goal in the 5-3 win over Chelsea, where he was fouled and then just got back up, dribbled into the Chelsea 18 yard box and beat Petr Cech at the near post?

Also, not just in scoring goals, Walcott is remembered for coming off the pitch and holding up two fingers for the jeering Spurs fans. Not two fingers in a vic, two fingers to represent the score: 2-0 to the Arsenal.

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Both players spent the majority of their careers out injured. Actually, Rosicky spent most of his Arsenal career, the last 8 years, injured. In his first two seasons at Arsenal he started 40 times and scored 13 goals. Then he spent an entire season out injured. And when he did manage to come back, he wasn’t the same. In the last seven seasons he has averaged just 16 starts a season and only scored 15 goals.

I’m not having a go at Tomas Rosicky. I love what he brought to the team (on and off the pitch) and I feel the same sense of loss that you do about his unfortunate injury. But can’t you say the exact same thing about Walcott?

Walcott reached his peak in 2012/13 when he scored 21 goals for Arsenal in all competitions. Arsenal fans expected him to “kick on” the next season, but that was cut short with the first knee injury. Then the next season, the same problem.

And at age 26, after two knee surgeries and spending the majority of the last two years in the treatment room, Theo Walcott mounted a comeback. He played 42 games for Arsenal this season, starting 22 times and scoring 9 goals.

He seems to have lost his speed this year. He also had many performances where he looked distracted or where he simply did moronic things with the ball like trying to Maradona an entire team and instead turning the ball over. And he was often in games where you had a hard time remembering him contributing anything.

All perfectly legitimate criticisms. He had a poor season by any Arsenal standard.

It’s also difficult to see where he can improve his game. At this age there isn’t much time left for Walcott to change his game. He’s a roadrunner who has lost his step. He’s not going to turn into a hold up player. He thrives when Arsenal play counter attacking football and he has lots of space to run into. It’s no surprise that his best game of the season was in the wildly open back and forth match at the King Power Stadium. Arsenal won 5-2 and Walcott opened the scoring for the Gunners, drawing the Arsenal level at 1-1.

The goal was an insanely Walcott goal: Cazorla slotted between the two center backs, Walcott picked up the pass and moving to his left, shot back across the keeper to the right. It wasn’t a beautiful goal, it looked a bit scruffy, but it was the kind of goal Walcott has scored his entire life at Arsenal.

He also had a man of the match performance in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Man City in December. But then there was a string of poor performances and when Alexis returned from injury, Walcott was benched.

If I were to venture a guess at what happened with Walcott it would be that he didn’t live up to our expectations. He has spent his entire career being compared to Thierry Henry. When he was selected for the World Cup in 2006, the England coaches said ”

He is quicker than Henry apparently and I’ve seen him in youth games where he is exceptionally quick. I’ve not seen a race between the two of them but according to tests he is quicker than Henry now. If he is then that is some talent.

Walcott’s signature goal scoring move is also very Henry-esque. He likes to attack the left side of the box and open his body up for the right-footed shot across the keeper. And of course, he wears the number 14 on his back.

But Walcott isn’t Thierry Henry, obviously. And he isn’t going to be the kind of player that people want. He’s not going to fit into an Arsenal system that demands technically perfect players operating in tight spaces. He’s more of a Shane Long type of player, or a Vardy type, someone who does his best work when he’s got the whole field in front of him.

So, should Arsenal sell Walcott?

Why? He still provides some value to the club. He is a speedy striker and when teams come to play against Arsenal, he can be used to run at them and give the opposition defenders fits. I don’t care how much money he makes. Arsenal have £100m in the bank. They just reaped £100m in TV money and next season they will get £160m in TV money. Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in the world and can afford to pay Walcott £8m a year if they want. He’s British, he’s homegrown, he’s the last remaining player with a connection to the Arsenal Invincibles, and he’s not a player who will cause problems in the locker room.

The only reason I can see Arsene Wenger selling Theo is if Theo wants to be sold. See, Walcott has a huge black mark on his career. He was chosen for the 2006 World Cup and has missed out on going with the England National team to every major tournament since. At age 27 he has to be looking at the 2018 World Cup, when he will be 29 years old, as his last chance to play for England. He’s never going to be the main man for Arsenal. He will always be a bit player from now on out. So, if he wants to go to Russia in 2018, I think he has to demand a move to a club like West Ham or somewhere that can play the style of football that suits his abilities, back to Southampton perhaps.

So, I’m in favor of keeping him, while knowing that he’s just going to be a bit-part player for Arsenal. He’s never going to be the star striker that Arsenal need and so I’m also in favor of letting him go if that’s what he wants. Just don’t @ me on twitter when he scores 18 goals a season for some other club.

Qq

kaboul

Arsenal 2015/2016: pulling out of challenges

I had a good friend ask me “Why would I support Arsenal?” yesterday and for a moment I was stumped.

I mean, I could say that we are a great club, that we have a long history of winning trophies, and that we have an amazing new stadium in one of the nicest cities in the world. I could point to Mesut Özil who broke the Premier League chances created record yesterday and Alexis Sanchez who is one of the most exciting players in the League. And I could point to young guys like Iwobi and Bellerin coming through the Arsenal ranks.

I could also say that Arsenal revolutionized football, twice.

The first revolution was with Herbert Chapman and his WM formation. Clubs played the WM for 50 years after Chapman invented it. That’s something special right there.

Wenger was also the first foreign manager to win the League. Bob Kyle is often cited but he was an Irishman when Ireland was part of the UK. Wenger was the first truly foreign manager to win the League. And he did so with a team that was largely foreign as well.

I would go one step further and say that those title races between Arsenal and Man U from 1997-2005 popularized the English Premier League. Arsenal challenged the monopoly of Man U and without Wenger’s Arsenal playing beautiful, incisive, flowing football, I doubt the Premier League would be as popular as it is today.

Those are good reasons to become a new Arsenal supporter but it’s all in the past. We are, like Liverpool and Man U, a club living in the past and I’m afraid we are going to keep living in the past.

My friend decided to jump on the Leicester bandwagon and I don’t blame him at all. I wrote about this before, I like bandwagon fans. Nothing wrong with bandwagon fans at all: they fill the coffers of the club, spread the club’s popularity, and some of them even stick around for decades after despite the lack of trophies. I was a bandwagon fan, I fell in love with Arsenal when they won the League at Old Trafford.

And now it looks like Leicester are going to win the League at Old Trafford. It would be a fitting victory for the way they, like Arsenal 16 years ago, have made football exciting again for the people who support clubs outside of the traditional quatrogopoly. They are an exciting team and what they are doing this season is nothing short of a miracle. When they beat Swansea 4-0 and their supporters were singing and partying it reminded me how exciting a real title race is. Something I haven’t felt for 12 years.

Meanwhile back in Arsenal land, Arsenal looked like a team that has given up on the season. They aren’t pressuring the ball out of possession and they aren’t moving off the ball in possession. You don’t have to take it just from me, Adrian Clarke opened with a similar bit in his breakdown. You know it’s bad if the official dot com site is calling out players for playing static on offense and lazy on defense.

A few players put in a running shift. Alexis moved, but then got grief for turning the ball over too much. Elneny was also constantly in motion, I don’t think Elneny could stand still in a queue, he’d probably have to run circles around it.

But for much of the game, Arsenal were playing at a standstill. Maybe it was because of the fact that this was Arsenal’s third game in six days. That was Wenger’s excuse and that’s an excuse for Özil and Iwobi, I suppose, but not for Giroud who was easily the biggest culprit. And if he was tired, why not start Welbeck?

And why isn’t Leicester tired? Or Tottenham? Why is Arsenal the only team suffering from this late-season run? We are built to be a Champions League team, right? Shouldn’t we have the numbers and types of players needed to mount a title challenge and a Champions League challenge?

I know that we don’t. We have several players on the books who can’t play football anymore. And we have players who seem to have given up on playing football at Arsenal.

Late in the match Theo Walcott pulled out of a soft challenge for a 50-50 ball and it may have been the right decision from his point of view but it symbolizes this season for me. This was a chance to win the ball in the Sunderland final 1/3 with no one left to beat and the goal gaping. But Walcott danced his way out of the challenge.

Like Walcott, Wenger pulled out of the challenge of signing some new players until we literally had no players left to play in central midfield. And there isn’t even any need to talk about forward players. I saw Andrew’s column on Arsenal needing an upgrade on Giroud and Walcott and thought “yeah! We have needed an upgrade there for three years.” It’s hard to find quality forwards, it’s a challenge. But it’s a challenge that has to be met and can’t simply be danced out of by saying it’s difficult.

And beyond Walcott and Wenger, Arsenal seem to have a number of players who simply pull out of challenges. They give up on loose balls too easily, they don’t get stuck into challenges, if they cough the ball up they fall to the ground, throw their hands in the aid and demand that the referee make a call, and it seems like under any kind of heat they just melt.

The season isn’t over. We can’t be pulling out of tackles. Arsenal have to play Norwich on Saturday and the Canaries are in a relegation fight – they won’t be pulling out of tackles. Man U is in 5th place and they are just 5 points away from Arsenal with a game in hand. They will be giving everything on Sunday to avoid letting Leicester be crowned champions at Old Trafford.

So, why would someone become a new Arsenal fan right now? Yeah, we have the great history and the records but this team, right now? Not unless you’re a masochist and enjoy watching a team limp over the 4th place line.

Qq

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Arsenal may need to buy 10 players this summer

My followers are largely in the positive camp. We all, to a person, respect and understand what Arsene Wenger has given our club. When he retires he won’t need a statue at Arsenal because the Emirates Stadium is the monument to his legacy.

Wenger has consistently managed to keep Arsenal in the Champions League and as a result has also built up a massive cash reserve at Arsenal, £150,000,000. That’s an enormous sum. The Stadium only cost £390m to build, so, that cash reserve is 38% of the total cost of a new stadium. And that’s cash on hand before the season tickets are renewed and before the new TV deals are accounted for. Arsenal could have £200m easily this summer. And Arsenal are going to need that money because Arsenal are an ageing football club.

Arsenal have eight players who are over 30: Rosicky (35), Arteta (33), Cech (33), Cazorla (31), Mertesacker (31), Flamini (31), and Monreal and Koscielny (30). Four of those players are regular starters at Arsenal and despite the fact that Monreal and Cazorla have been outstanding for Arsenal this season, 30 is the age at which players (except keepers) start to decline, rapidly.

There are also a significant number of players who fans (and former players) feel Arsenal need to upgrade: Walcott, Ox, Wilshere, Ospina, and Gibbs to name a few. I would add Campbell to that list which isn’t going to be a popular thing to say but Campbell, while he does tackle pretty well, isn’t a very good footballer. For example, who would you rather have start for Arsenal on the right: Campbell/Theo/Ox or Mahrez? That’s what I mean by “upgrade”.

Arsenal also only started the season with a 22 man list for their 25 man squad. With Elneny in but Debuchy out that leaves three additional vacancies that absolutely need to be filled. With the money Arsenal have, with Arsenal’s injury history, and with the need to rotate, it would be criminal not to fill those three roster spots. It was criminal this year and might have cost Arsenal the title (if we don’t win, which there is still a chance).

In fact, using that list is a good way to see who Arsenal need to sell and where Arsenal need to buy.

Armando De Abreu, Gabriel
Arteta Amatriain, Mikel
Campbell, Joel
Cazorla, Santiago
Cech, Petr
*Coquelin, Francis
Debuchy, Mathieu
Flamini, Mathieu
*Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo
Giroud, Olivier
Koscielny, Laurent
Mertesacker, Per
Monreal, Ignacio
Ospina, David *Szczesny, Wojciech
*Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander Mark David
Ozil, Mesut
*Ramsey, Aaron James
Rosicky, Tomas
Sanchez, Alexis
*Walcott, Theo James
*Welbeck, Daniel
*Wilshere, Jack Andrew
EMPTY*
EMPTY
EMPTY

I put my choices for sell/retire in bold. I also sell Ospina and bring back Szczesny from gulag. And so, without selling any of the homegrown players (who have the * next to their names) I think Arsenal have to buy eight players this summer. If you want to upgrade the striker position or the wide right position, then that’s nine or even ten players.

Walcott won’t be difficult to sell. He has a huge salary but teams like Newcastle would love to have a speedy forward on their books. He is highly marketable (will sell shirts) and teams are about to be awash in TV money. On the right team, where he can use his speed and exploit space, he could be a 15-20 goal a season forward. Look at Vardy, he’s not a talented footballer, but on the right team, he’s a shark-eyed killer (who loves to racially abuse Japanese men in casinos). Walcott gives all the same as Vardy and none of the racial abuse. He’s a no-brainer for any mid-table team looking to play counter-attacking football.

Arsenal have their work cut out for them this summer and I asked my twitter followers who they think should do the spending. 60% chose anyone but Arsene. That is probably just an indication of the mood after the tough loss to Man U and I will do the poll again later this Spring to see if the sentiment is the same.

But I’m curious if you all see that Arsenal need to buy at least eight players this summer or if you think they could keep some of them? Also, who would you buy?

Qq