Inconsistent. Lack of a football brain. Over-rated.
These are just a few of the things that many have called or directed at Theo Walcott over the years. When the former Southampton star demanded a bumper contract last season with his current deal expiring at the end of the season, many fans were against the idea with some even proposing to sell the England international.
Arsene Wenger even went to the extent of keeping him on the bench for the majority of the first half of the season until he signed a new deal in January.
Why was this the case, though? Probably because Walcott wasn't producing enough—at least consistently—to be deserving of such a contract rumored to be £100k per week, a contract very few Arsenal players have earned in the history of the club.
However, Walcott earned this new contract midway through last season, scoring crucial goals and becoming a pivotal player for the Gunners following the departure of former captain Robin van Persie.
As Arsenal ended the season in fourth, Walcott finished the season with a personal best 21 goals and 14 assists in 43 games—a quite outstanding return. His massive potential was finally being reached.
This season Walcott has failed to hit the same heights, mainly due to an injury problem. Having been out since September and only returning last month though, the pacy 24-year-old has already made an impact.
With three assists and four goals in his last nine games, including a lovely free-kick against Newcastle which was bundled in by Olivier Giroud for the winner, Walcott has become a difference maker for the Gunners.
Not only does he provide width and stretch defenses, proving to be a great outlet for Arsenal in the process, he is also impacting games constantly.
If one looks at this season alone so far, despite being injured for more than two months, Walcott has already directly contributed to 11 goals in 16 games. Adding to this, since returning from an abdominal injury in late November, Walcott has directly contributed with a goal or an assist every 60 minutes for the Gunners at the time of writing.
From being a substitute all those years, he is now one of Wenger's most important players.
With one half of the season to go, Walcott will certainly continue to play a huge role if Arsenal have serious ambitions about ending their trophy drought. And with him in the side, given the qualities he offers and the creativity of Mesut Ozil, they have a much better chance of doing that.
Who would have thought a guy with no football brain would become this important a few seasons ago?