When Theo Walcott arrived at Arsenal in 2006 from Southampton I, like most Arsenal fans, was pretty excited. From the grainy YouTube clips, it was clear the kid had blistering pace. He had so much speed it was unreal. Then as Arsene and Arsenal bedded him into the side, we saw glimpses of what the kid can do.
Unfortunately, in the 6 years he’s been at Arsenal, he just hasn’t progressed as most of us have expected.
Although that might sound harsh, that is not the intention at all. He is the model professional, one of the few English players that is quite articulate and well spoken, and if you look at footballers as role models, would be a good one. He doesn’t seek publicity, doesn’t shag grannies and isn’t stumbling out of night clubs with his pants around his ankles.
As a person, and from the limited interviews and clips I’ve seen of him, I couldn’t fault him.
The only grip, which is the biggest, is his ability to frustrate.
Now don’t get me wrong, in the last 25 years that I’ve supported Arsenal, I will always remember those “wow moments”. Those special moments in football matches which excite me, which I know I’ll always remember. Obviously these include Michael Thomas at Anfield, and many moments from Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira et al during the 1998, 2002 and 2004 seasons that I will always replay in my mind. And more recently, some special goals from Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Mikel Arteta but to name a few.
And while Theo may not have scored some, what I would call, spectacular goals, he did give me anyway, some truly memorable moments. These include that awesome run against Liverpool in the Champions League, where he picked up the ball on the edge of our area from a corner, beat God knows how many players and then laid on a sitter for Adebayor for the goal which should have seen us progress. That run was epic and I can’t remember how many Liverpool players he left on their arses.
He scored that “unique” goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season, where he tripped himself up and still managed to get up and beat 4 players and smash a low shot past Petr Cech – a goal which summed the guy up.
Capable of the mind-boggling, but never did it enough.
The reason why I call him Arsene’s greatest failure is because this kid could have been a world beater, but for whatever reason never realised his potential.
Gifted with blistering pace, at 16 he really should have progressed to the greatest heights. When you look at Thierry Henry who was under Arsene’s tutelage, and Cristiano Ronaldo who joined Manchester United at 18, they had fantastic pace but they added to their game and progressed season after season. After a few seasons, they became some of the best players the game has ever seen.
So you just think in those 6 years, why hasn’t Theo come close to this?
He has improved since 2006, no doubt, but not a huge amount. In those 6 years why didn’t he learn some tricks to bamboozle defences? The problem Theo has is he never had a trick to beat and man and would usually run straight into a tackle. He never shifts the ball to make the defender think.
Against teams that play high up against Arsenal (which is never much) he is great. Over the top and he’s away. But against most teams we play that sit back and defend deep, he is pretty much useless. It’s no co-incidence that most of his productive games and memorable moments for Arsenal have been away. He just doesn’t have the “footballing brain” that a lot of people have harped on about, and something that used to gripe me when Waddle first mentioned it. But for the last few years I’ve understood what he means.
The problem is that if Theo had the ability with the ball that most of the Arsenal squad has, with his pace he would be a better player ten fold.
I think the best way to think about Theo is when you’re playing Fifa or Pro Evolution on your PlayStation or XBox – when you play these games, Theo Walcott is an amazing player and one of the best on the game because he’s the quickest guy and you’re controlling him. So you can shift him left and right, pull off a skill move and pass and shoot accurately and exactly where you want it. On Fifa I can guarantee Theo scores 2 or 3 goals every time I play a match but Theo in real life isn’t like that and has your crap mate who always loses controlling him instead.