Theo Walcott: Arsenal Forward Rubbished Own Claims with Cup Brace
Theo Walcott's two goals against Coventry City rubbished his own claims about how he must be played through the middle. His second and third goals of the season prove, if any further proof was actually needed, that Walcott's success is down to his own efforts and not his starting position.
Walcott has earned a healthy measure of praise following his two-goal salvo in Arsenal's 6-1 demolition of the Sky Blues in the Capital One Cup. Certainly both goals were well-taken, but what is equally certain is that these strikes refute the idea that Walcott belongs through the middle.
The obvious point to make is that the first goal came from the right. Yes that dreaded right wing position which Walcott started in again vs. Coventry. The second goal came when Walcott cut in from the left side.
So the player so desperate to operate through the middle has still managed to score from both flanks. How did this happen? Could it be that movement played its part?
Many have looked at that second goal and drawn the comparisons with Thierry Henry. However, this is nothing new. That very goal was scored against both Slavia Prague and Derby County during the 2007/08 campaign.
To go even further back, Walcott showed his attacking prowess from that side when he netted his first Arsenal goal against Chelsea in the 2006-07 Carling Cup final. Many have also marvelled at the quality of Walcott's finishing on Wednesday night.
Again, this surely can't rate as news. Walcott has always been a good finisher. One of the main reasons is that he gets the majority of his shots on target. He'd hardly be a good finisher without that quality.
Walcott's problem has never been talent; it has always been effort. The effort to accept his position and still involve himself in the play, particularly when he is denied space out wide.
Instead of committing to varying his runs and improving his movement, Walcott still lobbies for a position switch. That first goal on Wednesday was reminiscent of many of his best Arsenal moments.
A ball is played in between the full-back and central defender and the resulting goal, or penalty followed by red card, is inevitable. Why is that so difficult to comprehend?
Those who point to the opposition as the reason for Walcott's brace ignore what he has done against better sides. The pattern this author just described played itself out perfectly in the 2010 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Barcelona.
Walcott's goal to make the score 2-1, came from a simple pass played inside the full-back. This was the mighty Barcelona, scared out of their wits about what Walcott could do.
Yet those moments have been fleeting for the England speedster. Consider Gervinho, who while he continues to frustrate with his temperamental finishing, still displays the kind of movement that would make Walcott feared.
Last week's 1-1 draw with Manchester City provided the perfect illustration of the problem. Gervinho got himself into numerous threatening positions, over on the right, on the left and yes, through the middle.
Unfortunately, he also had a game to forget in front of goal. Now imagine Walcott had been in those positions, or racing onto those passes, and now remember his goals on Wednesday and against Tottenham Hotspur last season.
There can be no doubt that Walcott would have found the net at least once and turned a solid point into a potentially season-defining victory. That's the real crime—that Walcott has the finishing ability but won't run off-the-ball in the same way that Gervinho and Lukas Podolski did against Montpellier.
The crime is even harder to accept considering Arsenal are loaded with players who can provide the type of passes Walcott thrives on. Does anyone really believe that Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Abou Diaby and a host of others wouldn't find Walcott if he made the runs?
Yet he doesn't make those runs, and not being played through the middle is a flimsy excuse at best. Positioning is irrelevant in a modern front three and especially in a team that plays with the fluidity Arsene Wenger actively encourages.
Some have suggested that Walcott should be give the false 9 role Gervinho operated in against Southampton and City. While in theory this is an excellent suggestion, why should Wenger trust Walcott to be as active with his movement as Gervinho? Based on what evidence?
That's why Walcott's brace in the Cup doesn't prove he deserves a chance through the middle. All it proves is that Walcott can be a deadly weapon against any team, regardless of position, but only when he wants to be.
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