Few men manage to achieve the duality of being both a football player and a living, breathing metaphor for their football club. Theo Walcott is one of these men.
Theo Walcott so perfectly represents the Arsenal of the last eight years. A man bursting with potential never quite realised. An occasionally devastating attacking force who unfortunately has the same attitude towards defensive duty as Ryan Giggs has to not having sex with his brothers wife. And in Theo’s own words, a man who has “only been able to find consistency in patches”.
If there was to be an award for ‘most infuriating player’ then Walcott would almost certainly win. If by some cruel twist of fate he failed to win, I’d like to think the eventual winner would imitate the Arctic Monkeys Mercury tribute to Richard Hawley and dedicate the award to Theo, the peoples champion. “call the cops, Theo’s been robbed”.
There have been games I’ve watched him play and whenever he had the ball I just knew he would do something amazing. When he scored the two goals to finish off Spurs in that glorious 5-2 I was sitting in a bar in Prague, completely incapable of expressing my utter joy. Instead resorting to the kind of gargled squeals I would expect to hear while orally pleasuring an Ewok.
However there is a flip side to Walcott., one all too often assigned via a “literally” infuriating sound bite to a “lack of a footballing brain”. The reality is that when his pace is nullified by a deep, organised defence he has little else to offer. Lacking the close control to beat players with skill and with insufficient crossing ability to float in an early cross, he resorts to an infuriating plan B. Said plan B consists of: Step 1) running the ball out for a goal kick/throw in. Step 2) berating the nearest team member, usually poor Aaron Ramsay.
If you were to summarise Walcott’s play, it would be neither of these extremes. The Walcott of this season has been occasionally sublime, occasionally abysmal, but usually just ok. I’ve sometimes forgotten he’s even playing, then lo and behold, he’ll pop up with a goal or assist. Which is great, now and then. But this typifies the majority of his games and he seems to think that’s pretty alright. Perhaps this is a symptom of the lack of competition for his place in the Arsenal 11, something the arrival of Podolski and the continued onslaught of the Ox should sort. Or perhaps this is a symptom of a more general malaise, a lack of a real driving ambition to push on and become one of the very best wingers in the world. Instead content on being a pretty good winger, assured of his place in the Arsenal squad and more or less assured of his place in the England squad.
It’s for these reasons I feel Walcott should not be seen as a first choice winger for years to come. I think he’s a very valuable squad player. But a squad player who wants 100k a week to contribute around 10 goals a season, despite harbouring ambitions of being an out and out centre forward, is perhaps not worth it.
Walcott’s saving grace may be that Van Persie seems to be pretty fond of him. And to say Arsenal are pretty fond of Van Persie would be an understatement on par with saying that I’m pretty fond of boobs. I love boobs, and Arsenal love Van Persie. A man not unlike boobs in the sense that if you give him the right support he will look absolutely amazing, and even if you don’t, he’ll look pretty amazing anyway. If keeping Van Persie meant signing Walcott on then it would be absolutely the right decision to sign him up for another few years. Walcott is by no means a bad player, he’s just not a great one. He could be great, but I’m not sure he can be arsed.