After scoring his third career hat-trick against West Brom last weekend, Arsenal must start Theo Walcott in Saturday’s FA Cup final, or risk losing to Aston Villa.
Finally getting the chance to play through the middle Walcott’s finishing was superb, notching up three goals before the stroke of half-time.
His pace caused trouble for the West Brom back line all afternoon and his dynamic forward movement allowed intricate passing interchange with the midfield.
Settling on the edge of the box, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil have a choice of passes. They can choose a probing through ball to test the reactions of the defence or a gentle knock out to the width of the box for Walcott to play the ball back across the face of the goal.
Wenger’s other options don’t offer this style of play. With Danny Welbeck set to miss out through injury, playing Olivier Giroud would stall the attacking movement of Arsenal.
Since his goals have dried up, Giroud’s movement has been laboured and static, meaning Arsenal playing up to him, and not through him, a crucial difference.
Playing up to the Frenchman means the defence aren’t tested - he can’t turn because of the defensive press and can only knock the ball back to the midfield to find an outlet through the wings, for instance Alexis Sanchez.
If you play through the striker, it means you have men moving off, he is facing the defence and looking to get the one-two in behind to stretch them, getting them on the move back towards their own goal.
Villa’s defence is physical, they will want to hassle strikers and deal with the attack by pushing forward.
When Arsenal move at defences, you can’t come to the ball for fear of being played through. Committing leaves gaps and the Gunners have the midfield talent to thread balls through and cause a real threat.
Walcott will make them do the latter and Villa's likely starting central defensive pair of Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker may be praying that Wenger favours the Frenchman.
His decision could be a huge one for the future of Arsenal, as the Englishman is looking to play through the middle and may leave the club this summer if his playing demands can’t be met.
Missing out on a starting place in the FA Cup final would be a huge blow after Walcott missed out last year through a knee injury and it would perhaps force the attacker out of North London.
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