Theo Walcott - is he Arsenal's saviour?
By Nicholas Spiller
Is Theo Walcott really poised to become Arsenal’s top striker?
Amid rumors that the long awaited contract extension for Arsenal winger/wannabe striker Theo Walcott are nearing a positive conclusion, one burning question still remains. Is Walcott really Arsenal’s answer at striker? Manager Arsene Wenger seemingly has gifted Walcott several opportunities to play as the Gunners’ front man and has found a couple reasons for approval, namely the impressive hat trick that Walcott scored against Newcastle several weeks ago. But were those striker appearances simply a way to convince Theo Walcott to sign a new contract, or does Wenger see potential in the young Englishman’s role there?
One could argue that Wenger has entirely caved under desperation to keep another one of his prized assets from leaving the club; as such a move away would be a complete disaster for the manager. Although seeing Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Cesc Fabregas head out the door to higher paying teams, Arsenal fans feel (and desperately hope) that Walcott will have a higher sense of loyalty considering his English background.
Foreign players are basically mercenaries who one would expect to depart a club for more money. An Englishman who has risen to prominence with a London club of Arsenal’s stature leaving would be the final deathblow on Arsene Wenger’s grand plot to rebuild the team. Maybe he has been backed into a corner of playing Walcott as striker. However, I hardly doubt that Wenger is such a pushover. He has been running the club for nearly 20 years.
In re-signing Theo Walcott and giving him opportunities as a striker, Wenger has basically assigned Walcott with the task of being Thierry Henry 2.0, which is nothing short of a monumental test. Henry moved to Arsenal as a young winger and was molded into the world-class striker he became. Walcott, who now wears Henry’s number 14 jersey as well, is making a similar transition at the same age and has done things to resemble the brilliant Frenchman: He has blinding pace, and has a calm presence in front of goal. He has already scored a career-high 14 goals with 10 assists in all competitions this year, and is seemingly on the right course. Although he has been judged for his inconsistent performances, Walcott has improved remarkably this year.
Arsene Wenger has surely taken notice and will do everything in his power to retain the player, and the club seems to have as well with their painful ticket price hikes! But the fans will probably still be annoyed if Walcott becomes the answer instead of a big name January signing in the transfer period.
Gooners have typically endured many a drab transfer window and often vocalize their disappointment in the club’s reluctance to spend big. Now they want and cry for a striker. Names like David Villa, Adrian Lopez, and Fernando Llorente have all emerged this month, while the fall’s wish list of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Demba Ba have signed on elsewhere.
If Theo Walcott puts pen to paper and pledges his allegiance to Arsenal, the chances that Arsene Wenger brings in a new striker would diminish greatly. As the club employs a 4-3-3 formation, there is only room for one player to start up top. With Walcott and Olivier Giroud vying for that role, would someone really want to join the team and become the number 3 man?
Playing Walcott as a striker also opens the door for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to enjoy more playing time on the right wing. With similar pace and skillset as Walcott, “The Ox” could become Arsenal’s new star winger. Such pace shared amongst two forwards surely will leave defenses scrambling to cover. The only worry is that Arsenal won’t be able to compete physically, though with Giroud in the squad there is such an answer.
The only way to determine if Theo Walcott is truly the answer at striker for Arsenal is his continued appearances, and as each January day passes by without a new striker coming aboard, the likelihood of such an occurrence simply increases. Yes, Wenger will once again have to answer the vocal disappointment of his supporters, but when has that really ever concerned the Frenchman?