Arsenal FC: Why Signing Gervinho Could Mean Theo Walcott as Centre Forward

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Arsenal FC: Why Signing Gervinho Could Mean Theo Walcott as Centre Forward
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Arsene Wenger is an immensely respected manager in the world of football but his side's recent failure to end the long trophy drought has meant that the French tactician has come under immense pressure from a lot of critics. The long serving Arsenal manager will have to ensure that his team can overcome the several challenges in the next season and end their trophy drought.

Wenger is certainly going to be busy in the summer finalizing the deals of some of his transfer targets and also he will have to persuade his best players to stay at the club and help them fight for trophies next season. Samir Nasri has not signed a new contract with Arsenal and it has been a matter of concern for the club as he has only one more year left on his deal and should he not sign, the Gunners might sell him in order to bolster their transfer budget.

According to the Telegraph, Nasri and his representatives are willing to negotiate with Arsenal over a new deal and Wenger will do everything possible to persuade him to pen a new contract with the Gunners. Also, Cesc Fabregas has been linked with a return to Barcelona but unless the Blaugrana meet Arsenal's valuation of the Spanish International, it is unlikely that they can agree a deal.

On the brighter side of things for the Gunners, it does seem like Arsenal will be active in this summer with the Mirror reporting that Arsenal are close to signing Velez Sarsfield's Ricky Alvarez, Lille's Gervinho and Southampton's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is interesting that the Gunners have been linked with three wingers, especially if Fabregas and Nasri stay at the club.

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It is quite possible that Arsene Wenger could alter the formation for the next season in some games though it is probable that some variation of the 4-3-3 formation will be predominantly used in the next season as well. According to the Mirror, Gervinho is on the brink of signing for Arsenal and it is probable that he will be used on the right wing which means he will probably take Walcott's place in the team.

However, it could be that Wenger has different plans for Walcott this season and he could be used in the role of a centre forward which he has played in some games in the past. It is probable that Wenger used him on the right wing in order to develop Walcott, who has a lot of potential. Walcott relied too much on his speed early in his career and some aspects of his  game had to be worked on.

Despite playing as a winger for most of his Arsenal career, the England international has never been regarded as a complete winger because of his inaccuracy in crossing and he also does not tend to dribble past his man to whip crosses into the box. But he has shown that he is more suited to a central role on a number of occasions.

It must be remembered that Arsenal legend Thierry Henry started as a winger due to Arsene Wenger and it was the French tactician who later used him as a striker where he became one of the best in the world. Similarly, Robin van Persie was also initially used as a winger before converting him to a centre forward where the Dutchman has been prolific.

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Theo Walcott is only 22 years old and has a long and bright career ahead of him, which is why it is important that he improved his game at this stage of his career. Wenger is known to have faith in the winger's ability and it is unlikely that the manager will look to sign other wingers quite similar to him, who will block his opportunities.

At Arsenal, Walcott will have to fight for a place in the starting 11 which is important for the team considering that competition always gets the best out of players. In the 2009-10 season, he sustained a number of injuries and missed a number of games. However, even when he played in some games, he did not seem to be comfortable and had a season to forget.

He was dropped by England manager Fabio Capello for the World Cup and it proved to be a blessing in disguise for the winger as he had a complete preseason to work on his weaknesses and also stay away from the limelight. Walcott started the season on a bright note as he scored against Blackpool and Blackburn with neat strikes but was unfortunate to be injured early in the season.

However, he was able to fight for his place after recovering from the injury and did manage to start games regularly for Arsenal due to the inconsistent performances of Andrei Arshavin . He finished the season with a clinical strike against Fulham and ended the season with 13 goals and 10 assists which means he has been effectively involved in 23 goals, which is much more compared to his previous best of 12 in the 2007-08 season.

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The main reason for this improvement from Walcott has been that he has worked on his game in the last summer and aspects like crossing and finishing have been better than the previous seasons. However, one of the major factors involved in his better statistics is that he has drifted more to the centre when there is an opportunity to do so and it presents a problem to the defenders because of his immense speed.

It can be observed that his positioning is better and his anticipation has improved this season as can be seen from many of his goals this season. In the game against West Ham, he provided a decent cross for Van Persie for the first goal but it is the second goal which provides the reason why Walcott has improved.

Van Persie drifted to the left and hit a low cross and Theo Walcott was in the centre waiting to finish the opportunity with the left foot. It clearly showed that the duo had developed a good understanding and also, that Walcott's predatory instinct could be better utilized in a more central role. His goals against Tottenham and Newcastle also showed that he can utilize his pace to great effect in a central role.

Gervinho is a player who has a lot of pace and makes good runs behind the defence. Arsenal will have to spend big money on the Lille winger if they sign the Ivory Coast International, he will probably be utilized on the right flank where he played for Lille. The strong African winger is a player who will bring in a lot of pace and quality to the team and will be an useful addition.

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However, Wenger could have planned to use Walcott upfront which is why he is interested in signing Gervinho to play on the right flank. Javier Hernandez was a great success for Manchester United in the previous season and his major assets are clinical finishing and excellent movement and anticipation.

Walcott has developed into a better player than he was on the wing but as a winger, he has not been able to showcase his potential because of his inability to be precise with his crossing and he has been unable to get into dangerous positions as often as he would have liked to.

When Walcott plays for the team, the Gunners undoubtedly play with more pace and their counter-attacking has more threat when the England winger plays. Gervinho is also an intelligent player and will also bring in a lot of quality to the side which means Walcott could be used in a central role more often in the next season.

Van Persie seems to have developed a good understanding with Walcott as the England winger has been instrumental in several of the Dutchman's goals. If Cesc Fabregas misses games due to injury, it is quite possible that Van Persie will play just behind the striker and Walcott could be an ideal striker n front of the Dutchman because they have different attributes which makes it harder for the defenders.

Though there are many critics who still criticize Walcott's lack of end product, it is important to note that he has excellent statistics for a winger, who missed a number of games this season due to injuries. Also at the age of 22, he still has a lot of years at the top level and will only continue to improve under the tutelage of Wenger.

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It must be remembered that Thierry Henry was not known for his finishing before he joined Arsenal and only at the age of 22 did Wenger convert him to a striker.

It is likely that Wenger expects Walcott to cope with physicality better with age and with Walcott currently 22 years old and with five full seasons under his belt, the next season could be the one where Wenger utilizes Walcott in a more central role and Gervinho could be the one who could replace him on the right flank.

 

If interested, please read my article on Arsenal Prospects: The Pros and Cons of signing Gervinho

This article is also featured on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and also, you can follow me on Twitter.

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