Arsenal 4-1 Wigan: Theo Walcott Aces Right-Wing Role in Crushing Victory
Santi Cazorla claimed an impressive four assists while Lukas Podolski grabbed a brace, but Theo Walcott won the majority of admiring glances after turning in a truly fine showing.
There have always been question marks over his development having been "around the block" for several years, and those who raise concerns have a point: Should his movement, understanding and positional sense be better by now?
He's only 24, is the argument.
Well, Thomas Mueller is 23, and his footballing brain is absurdly advanced: The German's movement, awareness and ability to create overloads is world class and he's been a major factor in Bayern Munich's record-breaking season.
Walcott can be that good—if not better, given his Olympic pace—and it frustrates fans that he hasn't exploded into the world-class player he is surely destined to become.
But on Tuesday, Walcott did spring to life, looking every bit the live wire defenders hate to deal with.
He took up intelligent positions on the right-hand side from the start, helping Bacary Sagna pin left-wing-back Roger Espinoza deep in his own half. This, consequently, allowed Arsenal to accumulate a good 15 minutes of pressure early on.
He was constantly sitting on the shoulder of LCB Paul Scharner, dragging him deep and worrying him.
When the game became a little more stretched, he stayed wide—in a similar sort of way Callum McManaman does—to stretch the pitch and give Arsenal true counterattacking options.
Once Roberto Martinez pushed forward in the second half, the football pitch became a playground for Walcott: His speed, agility and love for open space in behind is difficult to defend at the best of times, but with Espinoza pushed up into an orthodox left-midfield position, he was essentially one-on-one with Scharner.
With that much room, he was free to roam wherever and found himself central to score Arsenal's critical second goal.
He continued to stretch the pitch nicely, making Arsenal a threat on the counter throughout the second half. The more Wigan pushed forward for a goal, the more dangerous the Gunners became.
It was a lose-lose situation for Martinez, and that's exactly what happens when Walcott is in the mood, terrorising defenders and scoring goals.
He's made positive strides throughout this season, and that's something we've been hoping he'd do for about three seasons. May this will be a marker for seasons to come.
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