Does This Arsenal Speedster Really Have A Footballing Brain?

Another season and another set of games later, the same questions remain about Theo Walcott. The player was expected to light up Arsenal after moving from Southampton and while another product from St. Mary’s has gone on to achieve greatness at Real Madrid and with the national side also to an extent, Walcott’s growth has stagnated and it does not seem like he will be reaching the potential he had at one point of his career.

The 27-year-old has often been hit by injuries and even a move from the wing to the central striker’s position has not helped the English forward. There were expectations that he too could go the Thierry Henry route by starting off wide and then cutting in later but that has not taken place in his near decade stay with the London club.

Chris Waddle spoke nearly six years ago to BBC radio and stated “I’ve never seen him develop. He just doesn’t understand the game for me – where to be running, when to run inside a full-back, (when to) just play a one-two.”

“People keep saying to me, ‘Oh he’s young and he’ll learn’.

“I keep thinking, ‘Fabregas has learnt and he’s young, Rooney has learnt… they all read the game so well’.

“I just don’t think he’s got a football brain and he’s going to have problems.

“Eventually, he could play up front but would he know where to run? Let’s be honest, good defenders would catch him offside every time.”

This was back when Fabio Capello was the manager of England the youngster got a chance to play a game against Egypt, a game which England won 3-1 and the side actually did well when the Arsenal man was replaced.

Cue a few years forward and the same old problems still remain with Theo Walcott. His decision making has not improved one bit since his early days and it seems the only thing he can do is run with the ball in one direction without any idea of what to do next.

Spending so many years at Arsenal should have ensured that the Englishman would have learned from one of the best managers in the world but even 10 years at Arsenal don’t seem to have helped Theo one bit.

Even in 2016, he still keeps getting caught offside way too many times and for a number of pundits, it is a miracle as to how he has remained in a top team for all these years. Walcott could and should have spent a lot more time working on his skills when he was thrust into the limelight as a 17-year-old at Southampton.

That was where his base should have been built and the managers and coaches should have worked a lot more intensively on him seeing the natural and raw talent that he possessed but the old adage of ‘moving to a big club too soon’ seems to have hampered Walcott more than anything else.

Players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, even Luis Suarez were constantly working hard to improve their skills and probably are the first ones to a training session and the last ones to leave, something that Walcott should have been doing from when he was 11-12 maybe.

While practice vs. raw talent will always be a big debate with no real winner, the problem with Walcott is that he has just not learned how to adapt his game to the playing styles of the opposition and still keeps on making the same mistakes he did 10 years ago.

A ‘footballing brain’ is not needed in most of these situations, common sense is also an important factor and while armchair pundits can see a game being played out and can pull things out and analyse what to do, the adrenaline of playing a live football game in front of thousands is another experience altogether but then again, Walcott has been playing top level football since 17, so he should have picked up some nuances by now.

Unfortunately, it does seem that Walcott has the tools to be one of the best but now at 27, it is too late to learn and adapt to the game. Walcott might be quick and tricky with the ball at his feet but he just does not have a footballing brain that can pull up things and crack open the opposition or make changes on the fly.

Another case of what could have been for an England player it seems.

Written by Kevin Harrison

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