Walcott lays down gauntlet…to himself

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For a long time Theo Walcott got the benefit of the doubt from Arsenal fans for a couple of reasons. For a start he was English and, let’s be honest, that counted for something given the lack of homegrown talent at the club in the mid noughties. And secondly, he was young.

I suppose Theo is still quite young, but he’s a long way from being the youngest in the squad. Indeed with a couple of hundred first team appearances under his belt he’s arguably one of the most experienced squad members we’ve got. As for his status as ‘an Englishman at Arsenal’…well we all know that with the new crop of Wilshere, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and alike coming through the ranks we’ve a core of young Lions chomping at the bit. Theo has company.

As a consequence where once frustrated fans bit their collective lips when Theo ran the ball out of play, by halfway through this season patience had worn thin.

No more was this change in tact apparent than when audible annoyance was arrowed in the direction of Wenger’s favoured right-winger just before half-time in the Spurs match at the Emirates. Granted, losing to that mob down the road had something to do with it, but at the same time there was a real feeling that Walcott just couldn’t be relied upon when the going got tough.

Then something happened. By 15 minutes into the second half Theo had two goals to his name, Arsenal had overturned a two goal deficit and momentum, built on a platform of grit and determination was born. It’s this moment which Walcott touches upon in an interview in this afternoon’s Evening Standard.

Admitting that he had lost his way a little (some might say totally), he reflects on a momentous afternoon in the Spring sunshine and how he feels it helped him get back to his best.

“Class is always permanent and form dips during the season — that’s always the case,” he states with confidence.

“You can’t play well all season and I was struggling. I don’t know why. Maybe I took my eye off the game. I am always going to be judged on stats and it has definitely picked up since Spurs.

“When you are playing in a team that’s winning, it makes your job so much easier. That game was massive for me but also for the team.”

“I judge my own performances. I always like to look as if I’m on my front foot going forward but it is also about the defensive side of the game as well.

“The Newcastle game [on March 12 which Arsenal won 2-1] was a good example. Everything going forward was brilliant — assists, making runs in behind, running at my full-back. Even if he got it sometimes, I wouldn’t quit on it.”

It’s true; Theo did have a good game against Newcastle, although much of that seems to be down to shining in the reflected glory of Bacary Sagna. Since the Frenchman returned at right-back his solidity and willingness to overlap has certainly opened up space for Walcott to weave his special brand of ‘magic’.

Paying lip service to his defensive duties, which he appears to be undertaking more rigorously with Sagna barracking him from behind, Walcott continued:

“Defensively, I wanted to get the positional play right, helping my team-mates out. I want to be always wanting the ball. When we are playing at a quick pace, that helps me because I just do everything at a quick level anyway.”

There was a great article by Barney Ronay in the Guardian recently which, albeit tongue-in-cheek, analysed Walcott’s game and how it appears Arsene Wenger has simplified his team’s tactics to maximise Walcott’s main asset – his pace.

Describing the England international as “basically a punt downfield made flesh,” he described how Walcott’s sole responsibility was to get to the corne flag and pull the ball back. It appears, that Walcott agrees with the basic tenet of Ronay’s argument.

“I set myself a target and always say three successful crosses and a couple of shots in a game and that’s good. If you get a corner, it’s an end product for the team, the same with free-kicks, anything like that. You don’t want to be scared of your full-back, you want him to be on his back foot wondering what he is going to do next and when I’m playing well, that’s what happens.

“I would like to be more aggressive in matches and the manager has said that to me. Not by kicking people but by running at players. That’s the main improvement I need to make. When I play my best football, I am aggressive and not afraid of getting hurt. I am not afraid to put a foot in and that’s what he wants.”

All in all there’s not much that Walcott says which fans haven’t been thinking (or screaming) for years. It appears the penny has finally dropped, which, let’s be honest, is something of a relief given he’s been at the club for six years. Let’s hope Arsene picks it up and offers it back to his protégé during the on-going wage negotiations.

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Arse n all

Nice to see our players being self-aware

Chaplin35

I’d like to think that if a team plays well it’s down to everyone working harder so life shouldn’t really be easier for Theo. Success comes through hard work… I have also thought for the last couple of years that Theo and some others (Rosicky) like to talk the talk but when it comes down to performing consistently they go missing. Rosicky has been rather good and consistent for the last couple of months but Theo still has a tendency to go missing… So fingers crossed he actually can pull his finger out in EVERY single game for the rest… Read more »

ramgooner

we never doubted him as a player.it’s only his performance that has been questioned many times.im really happy he is doing well.
he must understand that his standards are so high that fans put lots of hopes and pressure on him and he must learn to take this in a positive way and thrive under pressure.that takes some time and we fans should also be patient.
theo has to an inspiration for players like ox and ryo and im sure he is on the right track.it’s important for him to not deviate.

Alex

Theo’s first vs Spurs you could see how much of a relief it was to him to score. Was really pleased for him.

Good to know he’s working hard & setting targets. I hope he can find consistency, even if it’s every other game.

Jesse

its a little funny/sad that us gooners consider consistency as doing well 50% of the time. Now this isn’t a comment about theo but more that we have been so inconsistent for so long.
consistently inconsistent. heh.

ggggggoooooooooonnnnnnneeeeeeeerrrr

actually the squad has been quite consistent this season, we just had two lapses at the beginning and at the midway point of the season but were still thirsdnow and have won more games than every other team behind us so i disagree with you there, but as to walcott i just wonder if hes a natural winger, i think he plays better when he goes into a more attacking role and uses his pace to exploit holes in the defense, so as a winger i personally am not a fan of him but when he partners RVP up top… Read more »

GunnAV

At least he knows what he has to do…he knows he can’t take his spot for granted anymore, what with so many talented youngsters at his heels for the spot…hope he keeps the focus and determination and builds on his game…has got a great future ahead of him if does…

Rad Carrot

I still really like Theo, good player, although his form this year has been somewhat inconsistent. But his play against Spurs and Chelsea, alongside other matches where he quite handsomely fed Robin has made me keep faith in him.

He’s still got a little way to go, but Theo’s a regular player and I’d be happy for him to stay with us for many seasons to come.

why is my name required

we’ve seen what he can do in the past, etc. hattrick vs Croatia, that mazy run vs Liverpool in the CL, and the assist for Arshavin’s 4th, that goal in FA cup final vs Chelsea … i mean he has that potential to be a great player. Let’s hope he’ll keep his words.

HR

It’s time we all accept Walcott for what he is! Yes, he is not perfect and has his weaknesses but his strengths and usefulness to the team far, far, outweigh them. He is a player who scares Europe’s elite teams just by just the thought of what he can produce.

Pearson

Walcott does terrify teams. He just needs to do it more often. His pace alone, gives The Arsenal ownership of large areas of the pitch. The bigger the pitch the better. Don’t play him at QPR.
He can assist, and he can finish like Thierry Henry.
Up The Arsenal!

ggggggoooooooooonnnnnnneeeeeeeerrrr

woah woah woah lets not get too carried away now, ive never seen a player who could finish like thierry henry, never!!!

aitchem

He should give less interviews for a start and concentrate on his performance more

Gooner

It’s part of the job. So all players should just reject interviews, then next thing we see people calling the cunts

Master Bates

maybe It’s part of their jobs to be cunts

Old man grape

His mono machine.. Can he do both?

Kimbers

And when Gervinho recovers and Miyaichi’s back we’ll have 4 ‘Punts downfield’ eh?

feygooner

At the same time?

JackJumblies

If he hadn’t been burdened with expectations when Sven picked him for the World Cup, maybe he’d be developing at roughly the same pace and we’d all be thrilled with how far he’s come.

That slightly flukish hattrick against Croatia didn’t help much either. The British press prematurely jizzing all over the place was reminiscent of what happened with Owen.

ScottPattenden

Glad Wenger and him are aware he has to learn how to beat a man, at present every opposition fullback is aware of his pace but knows he doesn’t like taking a man on. So they just stand 5 yards off him so they aren’t vulnerable to the ball over the top and show him down the line, where we would all agree his crossing is inconsistent at best…

Master Bates

Yeah but that technique (of standing 5 yards of him) makes the defender ineffective ,It’s a red card . So when Theo plays the left flank of the opposition team stops attacking , and If they dare to attack Theo will punish them. Like our last match Vs Chelsea where he completely humiliated Cashley Cole

Ben

While it’s good to hear Theo come out with comments like this I would question the “I set myself a target and always say three successful crosses and a couple of shots in a game and that’s good. If you get a corner, it’s an end product for the team,” Comment. Firstly, a corner is not an end product, but whatever… More importantly he should be setting himself the target of assists and goals, not crosses and shots. I wouldn’t put a number on it either, surely that can only serve as an excuse to take your foot off when… Read more »

COYG

Lol I posted just after this and it looks like we’re saying something pretty similar.

northerngoon

I think perhaps you should look at the assist charts and the goal scoring charts: first and second.

Arsetastic

An assist is a cross that the recipient scores… Yes, you can (ideally) make the cross as convertible as possible, but if RVP doesn’t make the onion bag bulge (perish the thought) then it can only be a cross. Targets need to be SMART (management training in full effect) – where “R” stands for Realistic – it would be unrealistic to set yourself the target of 2 or 3 assists per game, where as 2 or 3 crosses is achievable.

Ben

Did yo read my comment?

“I wouldn’t put a number on it.” and “Simply aiming for a real end-product each time you have an opportunity to effect the game is the way to go.”

COYG

Let me start this by saying I like Walcott and think he is a good player, but I think his answers illustrates his limitations. He seems to be thinking in terms of “me vs my fullback.” Which seems to be an old-fashioned English mentality. The best wingers nowadays seem to think much more freely about attacking.

Getting down the line and crossing is generally good play but it should not be the main focus. Creating and/or finishing scoring chances should be. If that makes any sense.

feygooner

IMO Theo does very well when he is given a lot of space by the other team, for whatever reason. When the other team sits deep or presses him fast, he is very poor, loses the ball due to a poor first touch or pass and struggles to get into the game.

Fortunately, he still has time to develop his overall game. And his stats aren’t *too* bad. He has a lot of potential, but a long way to go before fulfilling it.

Redsy

I think Walcott has improved and now that he is scoring 10 goals a season the aim has to be to keep that up and even hit maybe 14 a season be our new right sided bobby pires.

Keep the double figures comming Theo and hopefuly someone on the left Gervinio Ox or Myachi will do the same and take the burden off RVP.

GoonerNugget

Theo is almost too sincere in his interviews.

SDDutchGooner

After today (which was a quality goal) he’s at 11 goals for the season (the majority in the last couple months) and his ability to feed rvp is unquestioned. I think that’s pretty damn good for a 23 year old.

SDDutchGooner

Also think it important to consider rvp’s influence on Theo this season. Always talking him up and everytime Theo scores he had looks like he’s saying, “knew you could do it.” quality captain we have

northerngoon

The comments on here started valid and made good points, they then seem to get gradually worse.

For a Striker playing out of position he’s doing very well now he’s pulled his head out from his proverbial. Just think, for a player who the majority of you have slagged off for the season he’s our second highest goal scorer and has the most number of assists.

Shit bastard what’s he playing at?!

charlie

Theo talking again – what a surprise! I appreciate Walcott’s turn in form, but let’s not all start saying that he’s turned a corner yet. Until he starts producing basic levels of consistency, then we (and he) should start talking about him turning a corner. Bacary is a fine rolemodel for consistency, whose influential return to the team has seemingly eluded Walcott’s ever so introspective analysis of himself. Theo has definitely been doing his talking on the pitch in recent weeks, but Sagna has been doing that since the start of his arsenal career, so I would recommend to Theo… Read more »

Nero

‘Basic levels of consistency’. How do you define that. As previously stated, he has 13 goals this season and the most assists, which by any standards aren’t bad at all for a wide player. What he also has are areas of his game which he needs to develop. He can be frustrating at times but some of the treatment he has received from fans has been unacceptable. And now that Theo has hit some decent form Ramsay is the current whipping boy. Wonder who will be next.

charlie

Consistency in his form is what is meant. Theo isn’t being ‘whipped’ here, and I didn’t make a solitary mention of Ramsey. Recognising Theo’s faults is not tantamount to whipping. I agree that his stats at the end of the season look decent, but that doesn’t mask the fact that Walcott can produce shades of seeming genius at the one minute and abysmal passages of play the next minute. IMO his stats are hugely dictated by the immensity of Bacary behind him, and you just hope that Theo can develop other facets of his game so that he doesn’t become… Read more »