Below is the debut installment of a brand new column about everything Arsenal titled “The Arsenal Annals” by our very own Praveen Paramasivam. Enjoy!
An unmarked Theo Walcott grabbed a goal via a composed finish in the 8-0 rout of Viking Fotballklubb on Friday night, but the £140 k-a-week striker looked devoid of confidence throughout the game.
His opting not to celebrate the goal only underlined his diffidence. Perhaps, playing out of position birthed the negative body language the Arsenal faithful have learnt to grow tired of.
“I want to make my position on the right – that’s where I know where I am now,” claimed the Arsenal striker. “I’ve told the manager that I want to be known for playing on the right again, although I can play up front. I want to know where I want to play. The manager has said I can play up front. It depends on what game it is. I know I can do a job up front as well as on the right.”
Although he indirectly admitted his failure in transforming into a centre-forward, his willingness to spearhead the line-up highlights his aversion for warming the bench or the fear of being subdued to accommodate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Joel Campbell in the starting line-up.
The fear of failing is certain to bring out the best in any individual, and at 27, the impending season may be his last chance to fulfil the potential that prompted Arsene Wenger to part ways with £8.93 million in 2006.
The England international has been directly involved in 164 goals in 390 competitive appearances for the Gunners.
However, barring a few short purple patches – with the longest being the 2012/13 season that saw him score 21 and provide 16 goals – his time at Ashburton Grove has been a subject of mockery.
Injuries always seem to derail his goal-scoring form, with the latest installment being his calf injury in late October, but given his history of bouncing back after a prolonged spell on the sidelines, he can make the short purple patches last long.
First-team hopefuls Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell, or Alex Iwobi may block his road to redemption. However, the 27-year-old possesses in his arsenal the traits that would hand him the edge over the others despite his being less technical than Campbell is and less eager than Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Walcott’s dangerous runs off the ball and his knack for putting himself in goal-scoring areas are two attributes that not many in the current Arsenal roster can claim to have perfected.
Arsenal often looked dull last season, with many technical players on the pitch wanting the ball on the feet. Overlapping runs and sneaky runs behind the defence were almost non-existent.
When fan favourite Campbell was on the pitch last season, the N5 club did pull off mind-blowing defence-splitting passes, but almost no one chose not to be stagnant off the ball.
In Walcott, Wenger has a ready solution to address the lack of movement on the pitch, as he has been known to be always ready to counter attack or be on the receiving end of a through ball.
The arrival of Granit Xhaka – a through ball expert – will likely help Walcott rediscover his mojo.
In addition, Arsenal were also found guilty of not making the most out of Olivier Giroud’s aerial abilities in the opposition box.
Walcott’s crossing has lately been on point, and he will definitely help the potential 2016/17 campaign’s first-choice centre-forward play to his strengths.
Whilst Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain may be better players, Walcott’s playing style automatically makes the right wing his own.
Walcott may crumble under frustration, pressure, and most crucially, lack of support, and in that worst-case scenario, Arsenal already have a list of understudies they can call upon.
However, as things stand, the club’s current longest-serving player deserves one more chance, preferably, at whatever his favoured position is.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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