Arsenal would be stark raving mad to sell Theo Walcott
Let’s get one thing straight: Arsenal’s Theo Walcott is never going to become a glistening, perfectly sculpted forward at the Emirates. If six years of coaching from Arsène Wenger – the Premier League’s most refined manager – plus training alongside a squad packed with skilled and subtle craftsmen hasn’t smoothed his rough edges, the situation is unlikely to change in the future. Walcott is 23. He’s fast and he’s basic, and that’s the way things are going to stay.
In the eyes of many Arsenal fans, particularly the new generation brought up on sophisticated foreign imports, Walcott is an unsightly aberration. They appreciate his searing pace, and revel in his goalscoring cameos, but for the most part there are grumblings at his obvious lack of savoir-faire.
It’s a similar story with the older generation of Gunners. Some will reminisce over the gilded talents of George Armstrong, Liam Brady, Anders Limpar and David Rocastle, and shake their heads at the thought of Walcott joining them in the Hall of Fame. “Useless, absolutely useless. Theo Walcott is one of the worst players I’ve ever seen wear the shirt,” was the damning verdict of one former Arsenal player I spoke to about the England winger. But I don’t agree.
OK, he’s not a natural. Blessed with outstanding athleticism, he’s a speed merchant first and a footballer second. Who knows, without the pace, he might not have even made it to the pro ranks. Yes, his technique will sometimes let him down; he’ll make the odd strange decision when given time and space, and he’ll occasionally flap in tight situations, too. That’s all because he wasn’t born with whatever it is – the magic ingredient – that creates special players. But that doesn’t make him useless, and it doesn’t prevent him from being special, either.
Walcott is just different, and to my mind, he’s different in a good way. Arsenal would be stark raving mad to even consider letting him go without one almighty fight. If every team was made up of highly skilled, gifted playmakers, we’d quickly lose interest. Great sides contain players with varying attributes: the tacklers, the talkers, the passers, the flair boys – and, as in Theo’s case, the whippets. Unpredictability is an underrated strength.
Defenders aren’t easily frightened, but when they look into the eyes of someone who is infinitely quicker than they are, many become petrified. This is the emotion that Walcott often brings out in his opponents. The clever ones will drop off and force him to make up his own mind – but even then, they know that a momentary lapse in concentration is likely to cost them. If Walcott skips past you, inside or out, you won’t catch him.
Pep Guardiola once said you’d “need a pistol to stop him” while Lionel Messi described him as “one of the most dangerous players I’ve ever played against”. You’d like to think that this pair know a thing or two about the beautiful game.
Moreover, it’s a myth that Walcott is practically incapable of providing the finishing touch. In the past two seasons, the winger has scored 24 goals and made 22 assists. Not too shabby for a guy who can’t shoot or cross.
Rumours are circling that the Arsenal board are divided over whether to cash in by selling Walcott this summer, with 12 months of his contract left to run, but you can be sure Wenger won’t be voting in favour of that course of action. He knows the importance of pace and unpredictability.
Liverpool and Chelsea are already sniffing around for Walcott’s services, and others will no doubt try to throw their hats into the ring too. Not because he’s a perfectly sculpted forward, but because he’s different. In a good way. Walcott might not set the world alight every week, or take our breath away with moments of footballing genius, but, aside from Jack Wilshere and Robin van Persie, there isn’t an Arsenal player I’d be more upset at losing.
Come on Arsenal. Sign him up.
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