Gervinho vs. Theo Walcott: Analyzing Who Should Start for Arsenal

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 24:  Gervinho of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villal at Emirates Stadium on March 24, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

At the moment the focus on Arsenal concerns how to get more from the club's misfiring forward line. Picking the right combination would be an obvious place to start.The dilemma involves the right side, where Gervinho and Theo Walcott are vying for a regular starting place.

Walcott would seem like the strongest candidate, given his moderate success last season, a campaign in which Gervinho struggled to adapt to the English Premier League. However, even with improved numbers in the last two seasons, Walcott remains inconsistent and doesn't contribute enough to Arsenal's general play or attacking potency.

He may have scored 24 goals in the last two seasons, but that's a poor return for a player with pace that no defense can match and an assured touch in front of goal. Walcott's highest scoring season was the 2010-11 campaign, when he registered 13 goals.

That's the most he has managed in over six full seasons with the Gunners. Walcott should be in the 20-25 goal bracket every season and that's a conservative estimate.

When assessing why he's not, the first thing that's obvious is the England international's poor range of movement. The argument that he is played out of position isn't credible in the modern game.

He is not a true winger, he is a forward in a front three, playing for a team that emphasizes a fluidity and style that maximizes pacy runs behind a defense. Remember how well Arsenal used Marc Overmars and Freddie Ljungberg? Or how about Barcelona's ability to take advantage of Pedro's pace from wide areas?

Yet Walcott hardly poses the same level of threat. The reason is he doesn't make the runs that made Overmars and Ljungberg so effective. 

Two examples from last season, highlight what Walcott should be doing on a regular basis. His goal against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in March, is the goal Walcott should threaten every game.

Alex Song lifted a diagonal pass inside the full-back and Walcott made the run in between the full-back and central defender. After cushioning the ball with a neat first touch, Walcott executed a calm, side-foot finish.

That goal should be there in any game with Walcott on the pitch. In April, during a 3-0 away victory to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Walcott started the rout by making a sudden dart into the middle and Robin van Persie found him with a quick flick through the gap.

Sebastien Bassong, felled Walcott, conceding a penalty and receiving a red card. Once Walcott gets in that position, a defender has two choices. He can either allow the one-on-one opportunity, or take Walcott down, risking being sent off.

It's that simple. No defense is going to match Walcott's speed. If the pass and the run are right, these are the only two viable outcomes, but Walcott has to make that run, not stand idle on the wing.

However, it still doesn't happen and Walcott is out of excuses. That he can make the right runs, but often doesn't, is unacceptable in a team built around technically-competent and creatively-minded passers.

If Walcott does finally put it altogether, then all the better for Arsenal. This writer appearing like a clown will be of no personal consequence, if Walcott begins finding the net as often as he should.

Maybe his inconsistency is a natural by-product of youth, but he has played long enough to be further along than he is. It's hard to escape the feeling Walcott may never realize his full potential.

That leaves Gervinho who is not free from inconsistencies of his own. In fact, almost everything he does somehow manages to be half great, half terrible.

However, his ability to beat defenders one-on-one makes him a useful outlet. It also means Arsenal doesn't always have to play the ball into space for him to be effective.

Gervinho's skill on the ball is an obvious advantage he has over Walcott. However, his superior movement is just as important. Against Stoke City, Gervinho shifted off the wing and made an intelligent run into the middle of the box, nearly connecting with a cross from Kieran Gibbs.

Gervinho's clever movement allowed the attack to pose a genuine threat to the defense. The Ivory Coast star often takes up excellent positions in the box, but in typical Gervinho fashion, his finishing does not reward the quality of his movement.

However, issues in front of goal can be eased by confidence. The more Gervinho presents himself as an option, the more chances he will get. Once he finds the net on a couple of occasions, his confidence will grow.

Gervinho's should be given the time to overcome these issues and improve his decision-making in and around the box. He plays more like a forward at the moment than Walcott and offers a better outlet for Arsenal's intricate and probing passing.


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