Theo Walcott: Reasons for and Against Arsenal Using Him as a Striker

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

Theo Walcott: Reasons for and Against Arsenal Using Him as a Striker

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    After Arsenal’s resounding victory over Newcastle and Theo Walcott’s hat trick in the same game, pundits were queueing up to hail his transformation into a deadly central striker.

    Just a few days later, Arsenal took on Southampton, and it was an altogether different story. Against his former club, Walcott barely got a kick and was eventually moved to the wing to facilitate the introduction of target man Olivier Giroud.

    Walcott is adamant his best position is through the middle, but among fans the debate rages on: Is Walcott best deployed as a centre-forward or out wide? Go to the next slide to look at the positive side of using him as a striker.

Theo as a Striker: Reasons For

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    Pace

    Theo Walcott’s sheer speed is the outstanding physical attribute that has always separated him from his peers and made him a constant threat to any defensive line. It is often said that his is the kind of electric pace that is impossible to coach, and for a centre-half, it is the stuff of nightmares.

     

    Movement

    Being fast over the ground is no good if you find yourself offside all the time. One of Walcott’s major skills is that he has fantastic timing in his runs. His acceleration is most devastating when he is running off the ball in to the space behind the defence. 

    A midfield of Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere ought to be more than capable of playing the threading through-balls Theo will thrive upon. 

     

    Finishing

    The most significant improvement in Walcott’s game since his arrival at Arsenal has been in his finishing. As a teenager, his shots would be hurried and unconvincing. Now, he is capable of sumptuous, composed strikes, such as the curled shot against Newcastle that was reminiscent of Thierry Henry in his pomp.   

    Walcott already has 14 goals this season, and you wouldn’t bet against him adding plenty more to that tally.

Theo as a Striker: Reasons Against

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    First touch

    A couple of seasons back, Arsene Wenger was repeatedly questioned about why he chose to deploy Nicklas Bendtner on the wing with Robin van Persie in the centre rather than the other way around. Wenger’s argument was that his priority was to have a player with outstanding technique in the middle so that he could instantaneously bring the ball under control and bring others in to play. 

    This is far from Walcott’s strength. He came to the game relatively late, and this is occasionally evident in his under-developed technique.

     

    Strength 

    In some games, a centre-forward needs to be an outlet to relieve a team under pressure. He needs to bring down a long ball with his back to goal, hold off the challenges of two aggressive centre-backs and buy his teammates time to advance up the field in support. 

    It is the sort of play Olivier Giroud specialises in and the sort that Theo’s physical characteristics mean he is unlikely to be able to offer.

     

    Heading

    In the last two seasons, Arsenal’s game has adapted to add more variety to their play. One of the major changes has been a greater frequency of crosses into the box. 

    However, in his seven years at Arsenal, Theo Walcott has not managed to score a single headed goal.

     

    His ability as a winger

    One of the strongest arguments against playing Walcott as a striker is his ability as a winger. The cross he put in for Olivier Giroud’s first goal against Newcastle showed what he can do from out wide. Perhaps Arsenal need him more there than through the middle.

Theo as a Striker: Conclusion

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    There can be no arguments against Theo Walcott’s case for a place in the Arsenal starting 11. After a slow start to the season, when his contractual situation saw him excluded from the team, he has burst into life and become one of the most important players at the club.

    The dilemma Arsene Wenger faces now is whether or not to use him on the wing or as a striker. However, I believe it is a dilemma he will relish. To have a player who excels in two positions is a great position to be in, and it gives the manager greater tactical flexibility.

    Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are almost polar opposites. One is quick, small and skillful; the other tall, powerful and fantastic in the air. There will be games which suit one striker more than the other, and Wenger’s challenge is to make the right call. 

    I can’t see Walcott having much joy against physical teams like Stoke, but against the Premier League’s more open sides, he will have a field day.

    Theo Walcott as a striker? I’m for it, but only against certain opposition.