Tag Archives: Walcott


Arsenal Injury Elephant: The injured players you want replaced are all fan favorites

Arsenal lost 2-1 to West Brom, giving away a lucky goal on a harsh call for a set play, missing a penalty, giving up an own goal, and whiffing on big chances wide open in the box. As Wenger put it, it was a nightmare, and yet, all of that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was losing Coquelin to a knee injury which might sideline him for the rest of the season and losing his replacement Mikel Arteta to a calf injury. On top of all the other injuries that Arsenal have suffered this season, the Gunners are left looking like a Napoleonic War painting, with bandaged and dead strewn all about while the Hussars break through our once world famous lines.

Arsenal’s injury situation is frustrating. The Gunners are now missing Coquelin, Arteta, Wilshere, Welbeck, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, and Tomas Rosicky which is a huge blow to any club but given yesterday’s performance, especially hurtful to the Gunners and their title chances.

Arsenal are two points off the top of the table and the underlying stats all suggest that Wenger’s boys are the only other legitimate title contenders, next to Man City. But injuries to key players like Coquelin won’t show up in lagging indicators like expected goals for a least a month, maybe even two. So, while all signs are still pointing to Arsenal being title contenders right now, it’s ok to feel like that might not be the case come January.

As soon as Coquelin made the substitution motion, spinning his fingers like the ever spinning wheel of Arsenal’s injury cycle, fans took to twitter to bemoan Arsene Wenger’s summer transfer policy. Well, the lack of transfers really.

The debate about Arsenal’s lack of depth revolves around the well founded argument that Arsene Wenger should have known that he has a squad full of players who are going to miss 20+ matches a season. Given Arsenal’s injury record, goes the argument, Wenger should have stocked up on players in the midfield positions and given Arsenal a real chance at the title.

From that fact the fans tend to divide into two camps: those who felt that the squad was already deep enough, and those who wanted more depth, specifically, in the forward and center mid areas. The argument against depth tends to ask “how are you going to find someone good enough to be a starter but willing to be a backup” and the argument for more depth tends to be seriously ruthless and just say that players like Arteta should be cut.

I asked on twitter if they were willing to get rid of the players who were serially injured — Walcott, Wilshere, Welbeck, Ramsey, and Ox — and the response was “why not?”

British core

The reason I asked is because I think this discussion about depth and the injury record has an elephant in the room: the players who are most hit by injury are all fan favorites, and most of them are British.

This is why people keep saying that they want the very unrealistic “adequate backup”. That they want players who are as good as, say, Ramsey, but who are happy playing from the bench and who will happily go back to the bench when Ramsey is ready to play again. The reason they want that is because they don’t want to suggest the realistic solution, which is to buy players who are better than the Ramsey’s and relegate the Ramsey’s to the bench instead.

That’s the quandary that Arsenal fans are in. The players who are most often injured are the British players. They are the players that the young kids in Islington look up to. Do you really just shelve Jack Wilshere for a better center mid? We don’t have that debate because it’s too real.

Another good example is Coquelin. Many folks wanted a backup for Coquelin and players like Kondogbia are typically mooted to be that guy. But Kondogbia is not going to be Coquelin’s backup. He’s the starting defensive midfielder for Inter Milan and France. He’s better than Coquelin.

I’m as sentimental as anyone and I love Ramsey, Wilshere, Welbeck, Ox, and Walcott but I’m also realistic. If Wenger had bought Paul Pogba (a Ramsey replacement) or Morgan Schneiderlin (a Coquelin replacement) I don’t know if I would be too upset. I’d probably feel like many people do in those situations “if Ramsey is good enough and works hard enough, he’ll get into the team, the competition for places is healthy, and will produce the best team.”

But Wenger didn’t buy Pogba, or anyone for that matter, and so talking about transfers on the 22nd of November is peak pointless. We’ve been over all these arguments about if the player wants to come, if he’s available, if Arsenal can afford him, and we all know that on top of all those factors Wenger is a loyalist. He is going to stick with the players he’s got over bringing in a bunch of new faces, especially after his team won back to back FA Cups.

The cynical among us will predict out that all these players will probably be back in January, that Arsenal will win a bunch of matches and look like title contenders again, Wenger won’t buy anyone, and the injuries will start mounting up again after the transfer window closes. I can already hear the comments “I’m not cynical, I’m realistic!” But you are cynical, there are no Paul Pogba’s on the market in January. If we are buying a center mid in January, Arsenal are in real trouble.

The realists are worried about Sanchez, Özil, and Cazorla. Sanchez is some kind of miracle. I don’t know what his parents fed him growing up but that man’s body must be made of steel, I don’t think even jet fuel could melt him. The minutes he’s played for club and country combined with the way he plays the game, he should be out injured all the time. Somehow he’s not only not injured but flew back from a draining international break on Thursday and put in an amazing performance against West Brom on Saturday. If only his teammates had been up to his level, that match would have been a cakewalk.

Özil, on the other hand, has been out injured all the time but he’s playing his very best football at the moment. Losing him would certainly mean Arsenal drop out of the title race. And Cazorla is actually starting to show signs of mental and physical fatigue. His last two matches were poor by his own very high standard. But it looks like he can’t be rotated, in fact none of them can, yet another problem caused by Arsenal’s injury record.

All this talk of injuries and transfers is depressing, but I think it needs to be done. Get it out of your system. Then we can switch the debate to “who should play in central midfield while all these others are injured?”


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.



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.


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.


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.