Five Reasons Why Theo Walcott's Career Seems to Be Stagnating at Arsenal

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer IDecember 20, 2009

ATHENS, GREECE - DECEMBER 09:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Olympiakos and Arsenal at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on December 9, 2009 in Athens, Greece.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Theo Walcott, a rose waiting to blossom or over-hyped, inconsistent player who doesn't know his true position?

A young man with pace to burn who causes fear in opposition defenders or simply a guy with pace to burn?

Since joining Arsenal in 2006, Walcott has often threatened to fulfil his supposed promise but all the Gunner faithful and England supporters have witnessed are cameos and snippets.

His brace at Birmingham, run at Anfield, and hat-trick against Croatia now seem lost to a mirage of "he's injury-prone," he's "got no confidence," he "just ain't any good."

Since returning from his latest injury, Walcott has failed to impress the Arsenal faithful and may find his World Cup spot in doubt.

Early potential seems to have disappeared and been replaced by a state of stagnation.

So, just what are the reasons Arsenal's £60k a week winger come striker seems to be on the road to nowhere?


The Great Expectation

Walcott finds himself in the unusual company of Francis Jeffers, Richard Wright, Sol Campbell, Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Upson and (at a major stretch) John Lukic as English players Arsene Wenger signed that would count in any way as major transfers*.

[*Does not include the likes of Kieran Gibbs who were bought and placed in the youth academy ]

A fresh-faced Walcott arrived in London in January 2006 in a deal that saw Arsenal pay out £5million up front to Southampton with the possibility of the fee rising to £12million depending on appearances for club and country.

At the time, the fee was the highest for a teenager. Coupled with signing for one of England's biggest clubs for a manager who has moulded some of the world's finest players, Walcott found himself under immense pressure to succeed before he even kicked a ball.

With the English media already known for hyping up any new English talent as the next Pele, they went into overdrive when Walcott was selected to participate in England's 2006 World Cup by Sven-Goran Eriksson without having played in a Premier League match.

He kept the bench warm throughout the tournament and the media were quick to point to a wasted squad number on Walcott.

Walcott was already built up to something he wasn't without kicking a ball in anger.


Dodgy Shoulders and Weak Knees

Despite the somewhat unusual start to his Arsenal career, Walcott settled in to North London and turned himself from a bit part player to important squad member from 2007 onwards.

He scored his first goal for the Gunners against Chelsea in the Carling Cup Final in 2007, a game that Arsenal would go on to lose.

The 2007-2008 season saw Walcott score seven goals in 39 appearances in all competitions. 

That season's Champions League will long be remembered for his solo run the length of the Anfield pitch to set-up Emmanuel Adebayor for what looked like the winning goal in the club's quarter-final with Liverpool.

However, Walcott is now in his fifth season at the Emirates and has only made 64 starts for Arsenal.

Any sort of a run out he gets in the team is hampered by injuries leading to cries he is injury prone or "made of glass."

With half this season gone, Walcott has only started four games and made five substitute appearances in all competition.

Following correction surgery on his shoulder to stop it from dislocating, Walcott was then ruled out at the start of the season with a back strain.

He returned in October to score against Blackburn but was taken off injured and was out for a number of weeks with a knee injury.

His subsequent return against Birmingham also saw him replaced through injury after a hard tackle from Liam Ridgewell.

With the constant injuries, it is difficult for Walcott to put together any sort of form. The stop/start nature of his season sees him trying to gain match fitness during crucial games as opposed to him being match ready. His rustiness often shows.


Is he a winger or is he a striker?

Generally in football, it is expected that a player will learn his position through internal instinct and match practice.

For Walcott, this is problematic.

The England U-21 set-up often sees Walcott pushed up in a striker or supporting striker role while Fabio Capello and Arsene Wenger deploy him on the right side of midfield.

With Walcott expected to learn his trade, which one exactly is he meant to learn? His long absences through injury don't help him, either.

When Walcott gets into good positions out wide for Arsenal, the fans cry for him to put in a decent cross for a change, but should a central man be worried about being able to cross the ball as opposed to being on the end of it?

Because it is as a central striker that both Wenger and Walcott see him in the future, so why not now?


He's a one-trick pony

Perhaps it is because Wenger does not trust him there.

Walcott seems to lack the creativity, heading abilities, and strength needed for a forward man.

However, neither Theirry Henry or Robin van Persie will claim they can head a ball and they have done okay for themselves.

Indeed, Henry is a striker who can be highlighted as a case in point.

The young Frenchman's career seemed to be on the road to nowhere in Turin as he was deployed out on the wing for Juventus with little effect.

Wenger bought his former Monaco player for Arsenal and turned him into one of the finest forwards of his generation.

One of Henry's favourite tricks was to collect the ball out wide, use his speed to bypass defenders and curl the ball into the net in the blink of an eye. Its a trick Walcott could learn.

Henry learnt to utilise his speed upfront, a key component if Walcott wants to turn promise in product.



Despite talking the talk, Walcott doesn't walk the walk.

He is an honest, hard-working young man but when it comes to the games he is often found wanting. At times, it is easy to forget he is playing he drifts out of games so much.

Walcott needs to have more confidence in his abilities and especially his speed.

The likes of Torres and Henry utilise their speed above all else to create havoc amongst the opposition. Defenders know if they are turned, those they were marking are gone, most likely destination the back of the net.

Confidence often means a cool head in front of goal.

Walcott needs to build on what he has done against Birmingham, Liverpool and Croatia. Football is a confidence game, gain it and utilise it. Lose it and it is hard to get back.

There is potential in Theo Walcott but it has yet to be brought out to the light. If anyone can do it, it is surely the manager who honed the skills of Theirry Henry, Patrick Vieira, George Weah and Emmanuel Petit.

For what he has achieved (little) and his contribution to Arsenal as a whole, Walcott is on obscene money. That is the nature of the beast that is football.

In recent weeks, Arsenal fans have got impatient with their "FEEEEEEEEEO" but it must be remembered he is only 20.

Walcott burst into the limelight so quickly great things were expected before their time. 

Not every player is world class at 20. For every Cesc Fabregas, there is a Zinedine Zidane, for every Lionel Messi an Ian Wright.

Gunners now abhor the term "patience" but they must give Walcott time.

He now claims to be over his long-term injury problems and wants to fight for his place in the Arsenal starting line-up and England squad.

If Arsene Wenger has a fully fit XI, he can pick from anyone of Andrey Arshavin, Robin Van Persie, Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Thomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott to play in his new-style front three.

Walcott won't be granted a spot, and with Aaron Ramsey emerging as Arsenal's new golden boy, Walcott must improve his performances now or drift away.

Will he be the next Thierry Henry or Francis Jeffers?

A run without injury should answer that.

2010 is massive for Theo Walcott; it's up to him to grasp it.


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