Walcott Out! – Why Arsene Wenger Should Get Rid Of Theo Walcott This Summer
There are not many footballers who manage to divide opinions as much as Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. The England international was touted as the future Thierry Henry, when he broke into the Gunners’ first-team back in 2006-07, but 11 years later he has become another case of “what could have been”.
Blisteringly fast, technically gifted, and extremely talented – those were some of the chosen words to describe the young Walcott who was brimming with immense promise and potential about a decade ago. The Gunners faithful cherished and adored the young lad, many in the footballing fraternity rated him very highly and spoke of him in glowing terms and most importantly, the man who mattered the most, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger showed tremendous faith and trust in the youngster.
However, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Walcott has failed to live up to the billing. Seemingly weighed down by the comparisons with a legend like Henry and the expectations that come with it, the England international has struggled to blossom into the player that he could have been.
Continued tryst with long-term injuries, the element of inconsistency in his game and the uncertainty over his best position in the starting XI, have meant the 28-year old never managed to explode into the star he was once tipped to become.
Last season was expected to be different though. The way Walcott kicked off the 2016-17 campaign, with a new fire in his belly, a new motivation, it looked like he was finally going to start repaying the faith that Wenger and the supporters had shown in him for years now. There was added purpose to his game, he looked hungrier than ever to succeed.
Seven goals in the first nine games of the season in all competitions – that is how he started off last season. By the time the season reached the festive period, Walcott had managed to bag 8 Premier League goals in 17 outings. But then, a calf strain saw him miss almost a month of action and things dwindled down from then on.
He made a strong comeback from injury, grabbing a hat-trick against former club Southampton in an FA Cup clash, but as the old adage goes, “The flame burns the brightest before it goes out.” Walcott struggled to repeat his exploits from the first part of the season, and managed to just add 2 more league goals to his tally of 8 and finished the campaign with 10 strikes only.
His form declined so fast that, in the final 9 Premier League games, he just managed 95 minutes of action. Despite scoring 5 times in 3 FA Cup games, Wenger benched him for the semi-finals and the finals. The way the season ended, with him on the bench, things did not bode well for him.
A similar story has continued in the Gunners’ pre-season tour in Asia. Having played some part in all the three fixtures so far, against Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers and Bayern Munich, Walcott has struggled to make a case for himself. With Wenger now looking set to continue with the three-back system, there is not much space for a player of his qualities in the setup either.
Yes, he had one of his best seasons last time around in terms of goal tally – 19 in all competitions, that too playing on the flanks. That is no mean feat. But what should also be seen is that more than half of his goals came in the first-half of the season. Since February this year, Walcott has just scored 4 times in all competitions, when Arsenal needed him to ramp it up in the final stages of the season, he went missing – once again. And the switch in the formation has to be the final straw for the longest serving Arsenal player in the current squad.
At 28, he still has a few years of good football left in him and following his goal tally last season, it is likely that he will get Arsenal a good fee for his sale. With his big wages off the book, it will also help the Gunners free up some budget in order to offer better deals to the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are in the final year of their contracts.
The club have been outstanding in supporting him and backing him for years, but the time has come for Arsenal to part ways with Walcott. Alas, what could have been!