After years of inconsistencies, in both his performance and his position, could this season represent a new start for Theo Walcott at Arsenal?
A lot has been said about Theo Walcott since he signed for Arsenal over ten years ago.
Then, an unbelievable prospect who looked to have the world at his feet, his career has certainly not panned out the way many would have expected, and not how Arsenal would have hoped.
Only once has he registered more than 10 league goals in a Premier League season, and only once has he done the same for assists; ironically they both occurred in 2012/13.
These statistics don’t exactly back up Walcott’s past assertions that he should be played as a central striker, and equally don’t reflect the ability of a player commanding £100,000 in wages per week.
Frequently maligned by Arsenal fans for his poor work rate, as he ducked out of challenges and put in little defensive effort, it seemed the Englishman would be saying goodbye to the Emirates prior to the season.
When the transfer window closed, and Walcott had not left, most still thought he would be a marginalised figure at Arsenal.
Not many people would have expected him to undergo the transformation he has, into an apparent first team regular.
His performance in Arsenal’s 4-1 victory over Hull typified the ‘new’ Walcott that has emerged this campaign.
Seemingly accepting of his role on the flanks, Walcott was involved in both of team-mate Sanchez’s goals, and added a delicate chip himself which took his career total to 100.
His crosses laid on countless more chances for a wasteful Arsenal attack, who on another day might have scored 5 or 6, even in the first half.
The typical Walcott trademarks are still present: he can occasionally disappear in games, his decision making is sometimes wrong, and he still forfeits possession to often.
However, the most important overhaul in his game is his work ethic.
Rather than the Theo many of us are used to seeing, who appears to be more interested in self-preservation and his own game, Walcott now has the look of a man 100% committed to the cause.
He provides much more defensive assistance to his full-backs, and looks to link play effectively as supposed to opting for the easy passes backwards.
No longer does he look scared to use his pace to hurt opponents, in fact it appears he has finally understood how to best utilise his greatest asset.
Factors behind the mini-renaissance
There are a number of possible factors behind the winger’s mini-renaissance.
The attempted signing of Jamie Vardy, and the actual transfers of Sanchez and more recently Lucas Perez, indicate that Wenger clearly sees a need for his wide attackers to contribute more than just in the offensive third.
The three mentioned above are well-renowned for their terrier-like closing down of opposition defences, their tireless work rate, and general commitment to the team.
It looks as though it has been made clear to Walcott that, if he wants to have a future at Arsenal, he must adapt his style into that mould.
More competition should hopefully spur him on
With the return to fitness of Giroud and Ramsey, combined with Perez becoming increasingly adapted to the English game, Walcott will face more competition for his place in the starting XI than ever before.
Arsenal fans will hope this will spur him on to even further improvements, rather than cow his belief leading to a return of the Walcott many of have become accustomed to over the past ten years.
Written by Adam Pritchard
Follow Adam on Twitter @DukeArsenal
Check out his fantastic football blog, Starting At Ten
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