Theo Walcott – baffling and brilliant

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There is an enigma in north London that is as equally frustrating as it is pleasing, but the solving of this most bewildering puzzle could have lucrative returns.


The enigma in question is Arsenal winger Theo Walcott and last weekend he further proved his ability to befuddle those watching and, surely, those he plays with.


The victory over Spurs was a perfect example of Walcott’s capacity to combine haplessness and brilliance in such a short space of time.


The first half was a trying period for the 22-year-old, having to somehow deflect a relentless barrage of insults and fierce criticism from his own fans.

There has been much debate over the seriousness of the vocal criticism he received, with many in the press condemning those Arsenal fans who had berated Walcott for his mistakes and then gleefully celebrated his brace of goals.


The word ‘sheepish’ seemed to be the buzz for many a commenter and while it is right to condemn those who took abuse too far, claiming those who had criticised the England winger heavily should not celebrate his goals as vociferously as they did is incorrect.


The contrasts Walcott operates within are what so rile watching supporters, it is the fact he is capable of such brilliance that the frustration surrounding him seems to be so strong.


His career up to now has been littered with inconsistencies, pegging him back when he appeared to have made the progress so many had predicted in him.


The hat-trick for England in Croatia comes to mind, but then so do the internationals that followed where no more goals were added to his tally.


The fall from such prominent grace was completed when Fabio Capello decided to leave Walcott out of the squad that travelled to South Africa in 2010 – something he later conceded was a mistake.


There was surprise expressed at the time, but few suggested it was an unjust decision due to the former Southampton youngster being seriously out of form.


The key question is how do you unlock all the potential there so obviously is in him? That is always the case when it comes to young players, but rarely do they jerk so violently between the level of effectiveness Walcott dispalys and equally so its opposite.


With so stark a difference between his good days and off days, it is little wonder those who urge for him to realise his undoubted proficiency become so extreme in their reactions.


His Arsenal team-mate Wojciech Szczesny insists he is a different person in training than to the one that is often seen on the pitch.


“He's a very good lad and he is probably one of the best trainers in the dressing room,” said the Poland international an interview.

“He works very hard every day, scores a lot of goals in training and just needs to get the goals in games.”


Comments such as these would suggest it is something that happens inside Walcott’s head once he crosses the white line onto the pitch.


It would not be absurd to suggest the substantial criticism he receives may have something to do with this, but that conclusion does not consider the erratic form he produced initially to become the target of such ire.


The question of position has been mooted often enough, with many proffering the opinion saying he would be better off deployed in a more central attacking role – something he has expressed a desire for himself.


As with a number of players at the north London club, Walcott has had to learn his trade out on the flank and it does not look like he will be operating centrally any time soon.


Wenger did bring him on in that position late in the FA Cup defeat at Sunderland just over a week ago, but it smacked of desperation and Martin O’Neill’s side were sat so deep Walcott was unlikely to make any significant impact.


Even if he were move away from Arsenal, most top teams play a similar system to the Emirates Stadium side and Walcott does not strike you as a player who could play the lone role, leading an attack.


As it is, if Wenger is unable to coax the best consistently out of the speedy attacker, nobody else is likely to succeed.


So much was expected of him so young that his slow development has caused a large proportion of fans to write him off; not so much a busted flush, but a over-estimated hand in the first place.


This opinion is a classic modern approach to most things football – if it was crap this week, then it has been crap the whole time and always will be.


An often used phrase is ‘it feels like he has been around for years’, which is true, but Walcott has not just been ‘around’, he has been at the forefront of an over expectant nation’s consciousness since he was barely 17.


From his initial emergence he has been touted as a world beater and so considered a top class player, without having the usual amount of time to develop his talent and further his career naturally - or, really, to earn the tag.


It is easy to forget that he is just 22 years old and many others of a similar age would not have so much expected of them, nor so relentlessly vocal.


It now appears to have become a complex for the young man, as he seems to be cowed when performing in front of the Emirates home crowd.


This, in turn, affects his performances and so the criticism continues, which perpetuates the vicious cycle.


At some point something must give, whether for bad or good – both Walcott and pleading Gooners will be hoping the Spurs win proves to be the beginning of what was promised.

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