When people talk about Theo Walcott he is often described as overrated and naive, as well as lacking a footballing brain and an end product.
However what people need to realize is that he is still developing as a player. Most of today's world stars have grown up in an environment that they felt was their home, at a stable club with great players to train with and to learn from.
Players such as Arsenal's Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas—who, along with Barcelona's Lionel Messi are arguably far from their prime—former, and current, Manchester United stars Chritiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, as well as household names like Gonzalo Higuain, John Terry and Alexandre Pato, have all had the opportunity to learn their trade and hone their skills under the tutelage of some outstanding players and managers.
For Van Persie read Bergkamp & Henry, for Cesc try Vieira. Rooney and Ronaldo had Ferguson and players like Ruud Van Nisterooy, Keane, Scholes and Neville. The point is that all of todays stars have learned from winners. None of these players were expected to learn for themselves.
The importance of leadership and experience in the dressing room has never been more evident. While people think he's stagnating, I'm of the opinion that he's doing pretty damn well!
Walcott is at the best club for him, being developed by the best person possible. He's developing the best he can despite the lack of an experienced role model and being played out of position. When he signed for the club it was as a striker, looking to learn off of his idol Thierry Henry. Since he's been at Arsenal he has largely been deployed as a right winger, or a "right sided attacking midfielder" if your that way inclined.
However, when he has played through the middle he has shown great promise, but once again he has struggling to find his own style. He appears confused at times, almost looking for the advice as to either pass it or run with it. Nobody at the club now or previously has played like him. He is a hybrid, as is the case with all of the top players. Walcott is not going to be an average player, he is just growing into his personality.
At only 21 years old he has done remarkably well. He went to a World Cup and signed with Arsenal at 16. He has gone to have sporadic bursts of brilliance. Moments like his England hat trick in Zagreb and goal against Barcelona show what he is capable of but he tends to drift. But maybe he's just a lad growing up.
Everything came to him very quickly and lacks the football obsession of players such as Fabregas, who grew up knowing that being a footballer was all he wanted to be. Walcott was more interested in athletics, his addiction was not football. He isn't a "natural" footballer, yes he is blessed with blistering pace and is good on the ball, but these are things that he has been taught, he is still learning something new. Without a role model, a young boy is being made to grow up pretty fast. I doubt he even knows who he is.
He has done remarkably well to reach the level that he is at presently and his continued development, all be it slow, will produce the goods. He has done well to get this far having had to teach himself his own game and I believe that as soon as experience is brought into Arsenal, Walcott will begin to flourish.
Wenger describes him as an "intelligent boy", I personally think he could be a member of M.E.N.Z.A. I believe that next season we will see a different, more ruthless Theo Walcott. His World Cup heartache will have given him the kick in the backside that he needs. If he really wants to be a footballer he will realize that he is too nice. The realization that mediocrity is not acceptable will potentially reignite the hunger.
Experience will be key, and the addition of Chamakh can only bode well for him. Another personality to engage will be as beneficial as another player to learn from. English players may also contribute to an upturn in form and consistency. If, as rumored, Joe Cole signs, then Walcott may finally have a player whose mentality he can learn from—a proven winner.
Considering the circumstances I think he's doing quite well, and as he matures we will see the best of Theo Walcott. He's just taking a little longer to grow up.
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