Praveen’s latest “The Arsenal Annals” column.
Theo Walcott has been earning plaudits for his improved attitude, and the player himself recently admitted to have tweaked his attitude in an attempt to reinvigorate his career that had lacked direction.
However, most of the appreciation he has been garnering seems rather premature.
After a brilliant start to life his career– making his Arsenal debut at 17 and scoring a hat trick for England at 19, to name a few achievements – his progress greatly regressed, except for a few short-lived purple patches of form.
Months of mediocrity on the either side of his phenomenal 2012/13 campaign – a season that saw him rack up 21 goals and 16 assists – baffled the Emirates Stadium faithful as much as it infuriated them.
Injury rust, lack of confidence, mounting pressure from fans and media, and need to impress Arsene Wenger with his place in the lineup on the line all combined to ensure he largely underperformed last season.
However, the detraction he was receiving after his calf injury in December 2015 was unprecedented, with many fans advocating a move to the Chinese Super League.
The fans’ vitriolic reaction to his attempts to avoid contact from a Younes Kaboul challenge in the goalless draw with Sunderland in April 2016 underlined their frustration.
His comments about wanting to become a centre-forward hardly helped matters, either.
He has been a revelation so far this season, scoring five goals and two assists; however, the England international, who failed to make England’s European Championship 2016 squad needs consistent performances throughout the season to qualify for such levels of adoration.
Having said that, despite only showing promise for a relatively short period, should he be able to keep up with the level of commitment he lately showcases, he will proceed to accomplish at least a portion of the success he was pencilled in to achieve when he signed from Southampton for £9million.
Despite Lucas Perez, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all warming the bench, he will likely manage to start every Premier League and Champions League game in the event of being fit, with the manager himself admitting his admiration for the player’s maturity and most importantly, his defensive contribution.
He said, “He is mature. He is intelligent. I always felt there’s character and intelligence in this boy. He’s a guy with a good assessment of his performances and qualities. I said at the start of the season that we’d see a different Theo Walcott. I could see he made a decision and sticks to it.”
The decision – ditching the plans to become the next Thierry Henry in order to become better at what he had been doing good for the most of his career – has produced results so fruitful that he has made his ardent detractors eat humble pie.
Much to his delight, the Arsenal manager is willing to name him in the starting line-up week in and week out having invented a system that puts his best attribute – producing goals out of nowhere by capitalizing on the space ahead of him into good use.
It is now up to the 27-year-old to repay his manager’s undying faith in him.
He has won back his place in the national team in light of his good performances, but he can afford no room for complacency, as he should keep up his fine form after the international break and beyond.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
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