Analysing Theo Walcott's Finishing for Arsenal Against Swansea

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Analysing Theo Walcott's Finishing for Arsenal Against Swansea
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Theo Walcott was back in Arsenal's midfield on Wednesday night, as Arsene Wenger opted for 4-2-3-1 with Olivier Giroud leading the line in their FA Cup 3rd round replay against Swansea.

Arsenal dominated as they did the first game. They had 25 shots to Swansea's six, won 13 corners to Swansea's three and their goalkeeper Michael Vorm made seven saves while Wojciech Szczesny was redundant (ESPNFC). But for all their superiority, Arsenal were still without a goal after 85 minutes

It all comes down to finishing. Giroud had nine attempts—five of them on target—but once again failed to score. The Frenchman has now gone six starts without a goal for Arsenal.

Walcott was Arsenal's next-worst culprit. And while he might be Arsenal's top scorer this season, with 14 goals, the 23-year-old who would be a striker should have scored more. Here's a breakdown of his key second-half misses against Swansea, to demonstrate.

First up, he made great run to take advantage of Swansea holding a deep line. Abou Diaby's pass found him brilliantly (see below), Walcott's pace saw him on goal, but he delayed his finish too long and chipped wide when he should have shot early and towards the bottom corner to take advantage of a better angle.

Abou Diaby's pass finds Walcott making a great run from the inside-right channel

Walcott's next opening came just after the hour-mark and was as clear as they come. Jack Wilshere's shot deflected into his path and he had the goal at his mercy from inside the six-yard box. Walcott's volley was cleared off the line by Danny Graham. His instincts should have placed the ball anywhere else.

Walcott shoots straight at Swansea's Danny Graham with the goal at his mercy

On 70 minutes, Walcott spurned another decent chance when he shot wide. Then, on 83 minutes, his intelligent movement found him unmarked to meet a cross from Bacary Sagna at the near post. Walcott should, at the very least, have found the target. But instead the ball skimmed off his head and Arsenal's search for a goal continued.

An unmarked Walcott meets Bacary Sagna's cross. His header was well wide.

There would be one more chance for Walcott to win the game. But, finding himself in space to shoot, he went at Vorm's near post when he should have gone across him and looked for the far corner. The red line shows where Walcott's effort was aimed.

Walcott shoots at the near post, when he arguably should have gone across Vorm

Thankfully for Arsenal, Wilshere was on hand to deliver the moment of quality they'd found so elusive for most of the evening. Arsenal's best player crashed home a volley to win the match on 86 minutes and the misses of Walcott and Giroud ended up costing their team nothing—aside from unnecessary worry.

Where should Arsenal play Walcott?

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As for Walcott's striker claims, this was not a night to further his argument. His goals tally is impressive, but when you consider Walcott has mustered just one headed attempt on goal all season in the Premier League (EPL Index), it's hard to see how he represents the answer for an Arsenal team who have sent over 408 crosses from open play.

 

Moreover, Walcott's six shots from midfield against Swansea compares to the two he managed as a striker in Premier League games against Manchester City and Southampton (EPL Index). Might that suggest the room he's afforded on the right is the more effective way for Arsenal to come upon goals?

With Wenger "99 percent" confident Walcott will sign a new deal at the club, the debate over Walcott's striker credentials will run and run. Those in favor will point to his hat-tricks against Newcastle and Reading. Those against will point to his tendency to lose focus in the vital moment and take the wrong decision in front of goal.

Can he play as a striker? Of course he can. But you can't help feel Arsenal would be better served going into the market for a world-class alternative and encouraging Walcott to support him from the inside-right channel he thrives in.

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