Wow! What a game Premier League side Arsenal had in the Capital One Cup. You know the one I'm on about.
I'm sure you'll agree that our star man was undoubtedly Theo Walcott. Other players put in surprising shifts, including Andrey Arshavin, Thomas Eisfeld, Olivier Giroud and our long-lost Moroccan, Marouane Chamakh, But Walcott had a game to remember, starting and ending our comeback and scoring late in both halves.
Many fear we could lose him to Chelsea, and Liverpool are supposedly interested with his contract running out in the summer. Despite his shortcomings, Walcott is a good player. Getting a player of his quality for basically nothing will be one hell of a bargain for any club.
Arsenal’s No. 14 has claimed that the issue with his contract renewal is due to the manager not assuring him a place as a striker rather than his current role as winger. If that's the case, why isn’t Wenger giving him the green light, especially with his goals and good performances?
It should be an easy decision after his game at Reading. He totally made his case, and the fans happen to share the same view.
I fall into the faction of Arsenal fans that would like to see Walcott as a striker. Wenger recently admitted the same view himself. So does that mean the contract issue will be resolved soon? Only time will tell.
Wenger’s reluctance got me wondering why a man who has improved immensely with his finishing, off-the-ball movement, positioning, first touch and other attacking attributes is not assured playing time in a role he feels he could be his best at. Or is it just another French lunacy?
Just like a hatter, it is hard to know what Le Boss has in mind, but I found answers that quenched my curiosity and seem "Wenger-like". As we know, Wenger won’t promise a player playing time knowing such promises can’t be kept, in order to avoid dealing with an unhappy player down the line.
So here are some probable reasons behind it.
During the summer transfer window, two strikers in the form of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud were acquired. Podolski is admittedly currently out of his natural position, as a left-winger. Why buy such a quality striker and put him on the wings? Well, we all have to agree that he has contributed heavily to the team as he uses his unrivalled work rate in balancing both attack and defence.
Podolski has recently voiced his frustrations and, like Walcott, has stated he wants to play as the main man upfront. In his debut against Sunderland, Podolski started the game as the center-forward and was a peripheral player on the pitch. He actually found a new lease of life in his Arsenal career when he was drafted into the left wing—the position where his four goals this season have come from.
This issue of players grumbling to play in other positions against their manager’s wish is somewhat troubling. While Walcott and more recently Podolski are busy whining to play in the center-forward role currently occupied by their teammate Giroud, what would they say about other Gunners that are still struggling to get into the first team?
Everyone thought that the sale of Alex Song would either allow Wenger to buy another holding midfielder (Cheick Tiote was heavily linked) or give Francis Coquelin a chance to excel in the first team. However, the gaffer opted for the experienced Mikel Arteta who currently plays a somewhat similar role to Pep Guardiola in his playing days.
Arteta, a once-established attacking midfielder, now plays the pivotal role in linking both defence and midfield. This was a role played by Song last season. Our Spanish man has gladly welcomed the change saying “it was for the benefit of the team.”
Walcott and Podolski need to learn from Arteta.
You might be getting where I'm headed... Maybe Walcott might be of more use to the team if he sticks with Wenger and plays on the wings. I know what you're thinking: he’s inconsistent, has poor decision-making and couldn’t put in a decent cross to save his life.
That might be wrong considering his performance this season.
We all agree that he's been one of our best performers. Has any of that come from playing as a striker?
I don't think so.
Yes, he does drift to that center-forward position. This simply means that he needs to get more involved in attack rather than rigidly sticking to the wing and becoming a one-trick pony (like Antonio Valencia) who wants to reach the by-line by all means and put the ball into the box.
It was good seeing the Reading defenders pulling back as Walcott approached. They weren’t sure if he would run past or move inside, as he did most of the match. There was some form of fluidity to his game.
Maybe Walcott can adopt a similar role to the likes of football demigods Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. In Madrid, CR7 scores a majority of the goals for Los Merengues (164 goals in 160 games, amazing!) but you never see Jose Mourinho remove Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain as strikers in favor of Ronaldo. In Barcelona, the fluidity of the team allows the gaffer to play Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez, Alexis Sanchez, David Villa or those kids from their mutant La Masia academy at any of the attacking positions.
We know who the better players are. Maybe their managers don’t put them at striker for other reasons. They both play down the flanks but they get central to become more involved in the game. Some call them out-and-out strikers, and sometimes they are given a free role… A few changes and Walcott might be perfect for this role?
So in reality, there might not be playing time in the striker role for Walcott if another top striker is bought and if Wenger has to choose among Podolski, a proven striker with a class finish, or Giroud, a hard-working striker with good aerial abilities which help in both attacking and defending.
I really doubt Walcott will be first on the list to spearhead our attack given our 4-2-3-1 formation.
Is the problem the lack of playing time in his preferred position or a lack of resources for his wage demand? Either way, he needs to be wrapped up in time for Christmas before our rivals start keying in their estimated values for our potential striker.
I do hope Wenger fits him to the best of the team, as that is what comes first.
Should Wenger let the man have what he wants?
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