The cat’s out of the bag.
So let’s take a look at five reasons Arsene Wenger might just want to try Theo Walcott out as a central striker—and, as usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.
Walcott’s finishing has been branded erratic, wayward and downright disappointing.
But his Arsenal career goal tally of 43 goals in 225 appearances—almost one in five—suggests that he might actually be a quite decent goal-scoring winger.
Add to that his 13 goals in the 2010-2011 season and 11 in 2011-2012, along with his strike for England in their Euro 2012 win over Sweden and his icing-on-the-cake goal against Southampton a couple of weeks ago, and we see a sign that Walcott has actually improved his finishing by quite a bit.
Perhaps moving into a striking berth might be just reward for his improvements.
Whether his finishing has improved enough to justify a striking role or not, the indisputable biggest asset in Walcott’s game is his pace.
While Arsenal’s usual approach is to dominate possession of the ball and to outpass their opponents, one of their most fearsome attacking options is the counterattack.
With incredible pace and creativity added in the summer in the forms of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, and with Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta supporting an attack-minded central midfield, Walcott would have an absolute feast off the chances they create.
And instead of losing the ball by a questionable crossing decision from the wing, Walcott could fully focus on being on the end of things, rather than in the mix.
Spearheading a counterattack—or spearheading any attack, period—naturally implies a lone-striker role.
But contrary to popular belief that only a player with the necessary physique and heading ability should fill that role, just look at Jermain Defoe’s blistering start to the season over at Tottenham Hotspur.
Defoe’s off-the-ball running and positioning have caused opponents untold problems this season, and he’s made the most out of the chances set up by a creative Spurs midfield.
Walcott might still have some ways to go to learn that clever positional sense, but his pace and small stature will allow him to ghost past defenders or evade them entirely in the penalty area.
Of course, on the flip side, perhaps Walcott should get a chance up front because, well, his usual role is currently taken.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has seemingly usurped his place in the right wing pecking order, while Cazorla could very well play that role to great effect.
Gervinho, another Arsenal forward caught between the front and the wings, has also begun the season in decent form—his ineffectual match against Manchester City aside—and has contributed to Walcott’s current bench status.
So, Theo: Playing as a striker might not just be your dream; it might be your only hope to stay in this strong Arsenal squad.
“Hope,” because his competitors for a striking berth haven’t set the world on fire just yet.
Marouane Chamakh is so far off the first-team picture that he doesn’t even merit a mention in the battle for the striking role, Gervinho’s curious inconsistency will (ironically) continue to let him down, and Lukas Podolski’s creativity and defensive work sees him as Arsene Wenger’s first choice on the left wing for now.
But the main thing that should keep Walcott going is that Olivier Giroud, Arsenal’s big-money signing, hasn’t scored yet, and indeed has been feeling the pressure.
The big saving grace for Giroud is that he has been playing well without scoring, contributing to Arsenal’s attack and goal scoring with his positioning, off-the-ball running and passing.
Walcott will need to prove that he can score and play that striking role better than all of them.
He’s been going on about it for a while, but this time it seems Walcott really does want to make that central striker’s position his own.
Given Arsenal’s good start to the season, perhaps Wenger might be tempted to keep the status quo for now, but Walcott might just have some merit in his arguments.
What do you think? Does Walcott have what it takes to lead Arsenal from the front? Should Wenger give him a chance as a striker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Also check out: Why Arsenal Can Be Title Contenders