Oh, well…oh, well…What do we have here? A ping on my WTF radar! The news has it that the great Paul Parker thinks Theo Walcott is not good enough to play for big clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool.
The ex-England and Manchester United defender wrote in his blog that the reason behind Walcott being valued high as a footballer is because of his nationality and not because of his abilities and skills on pitch. This leaves you to wonder if you've read and comprehended Parker’s words wrongly or it’s just him being oblivious to Walcott's capabilities.
So what if Walcott is not having the best season of his career? Anyone would suffer from a fair bit of rust after long-term injury spells. He was laid off for almost a year due to serious knee injury and subsequent groin problem, but that does not make him a poor player.
When someone like Lionel Messi describes Walcott as ‘one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against’, it’s not a joke. His incredible speed, good balance and technique make him an invaluable player.
Walcott finished the 2012/13 Premier League season, the term he was actively playing, with 14 goals and 12 assists from 32 games. That’s not a statistics one associates with an inadequate player, but a very good one instead.
Now, how can one forget the almost-magical League Cup tie at Reading in 2012, when Arsenal made a comeback from trailing 4-0? Walcott’s calm and assured opening-goal, after outrunning two defenders, is a tell-tale to the quality he possesses.
His phenomenal breakthrough runs will be an asset to any club he chooses to play for and he proved that he still got it in him earlier this year in the game against Aston Villa at home. He gunned a breakaway move from Aston Villa’s half, to find Olivier Giroud, who in turn gave a precise pass to Mesut Ozil to score the second goal of the game.
Soon after, Walcott started a move at midfield, passing the ball to Santi Cazorla, who then gave it back perfectly to him to take the score line to 3-0. Subsequently, Cazorla’s penalty and Hector Bellerin’s first Premier League goal for the club resulted in the game to end 5-0. Hence, the concern is never about Walcott’s competencies or the lack thereof, but it’s his fitness.
It’s an advantage really, that he plays well as both a centre-forward and as a right winger. Even though many a time he asserts that he does not prefer a role at the flank, standing at the height of 5 feet 9 inches and built on a relatively smaller frame, he probably doesn't have the right physical attributes to be a prolific striker.
However, that neither means shorter and smaller-built players cannot make great strikers, because Diego Maradona, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero, to name a few, are exceptions to the general rule. What differentiates them from Walcott is, they can win tackles and they are more powerful, while Walcott is a little bit more fragile and structurally unstable.
He might've got the pace to outrun defenders, but it would be easy to shrug him off the ball if they got to him. And being a striker would mean the ball most likely will land on his feet when he’s in front of the goal post. The speed will not be as important as physical strength then.
By playing at the wing and wide, however, he can make full use of his deadly runs and improved crosses. At his best, Walcott is fairly feared by defenders. They naturally avoid moving further up the field because they don’t want to get involved in a running challenge with one of the fastest sprinter in football. This in turn results in more possession percentage for Arsenal and fewer attacking opportunities for the opponents.
Having said that, this season will serve as a reflection period for Walcott, whereby he has to sort out his priorities. Does he want to play football, in the position the team needs him the most for or continue to be side-lined because he wants to play the centre-forward role?
He then has to earn more playing time with the squad. With Ozil, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, all of whom are capable of playing wide on the right, Walcott has to work harder to gain a permanent place in the team. And I can't think of a better way for Walcott to start off than to sign a new contract with Arsenal.
Arsenal fans: do you think Theo Walcott should stay or go? Let us know below!