The renaissance of Theo Walcott

walcott

It didn’t take much for Arsenal fans to take to Theo Walcott, a player who joined the Gunners at the tender age of 16. The Englishman arrived for a substantial fee of £9 million, excluding bonuses, back in 2006, and being as young as he was, the supporters had a vested interest and obligation in making the winger feel welcome in his new lofty surroundings.

He received no less from day one, and if the trust bestowed upon Arsène Wenger and his eye for talent wasn’t enough, Walcott’s surprising call-up to the England 2006 World Cup squad was an instant reminder of the potential the boy earmarked as ‘the next Thierry Henry’ possessed.

His development was steady, as he began to enter the first-team frame in the 2006/07 season, whereas glimpses of his potency, such as his storming assist for Emmanuel Adebayor in the UEFA Champions League against Liverpool in 2008, only gained further subscribers to his natural talent.

It wasn’t until the 2010/11 season, however, that Walcott began to piece the snippets together into concrete form, subsequently moulding himself as a first-team regular in what was arguably the last time Arsenal looked like genuine title contenders.

In that season, the 27-year-old hiked his contributions to 13 goals and seven assists in all competitions; meanwhile he produced similar returns in the follow-up season with eight league goals and 11 assists alongside Robin van Persie in Arsenal’s attack.

Walcott hit a personal best in 2013, striking 21 times in all competitions, 14 of those goals coming in the Premier League, whereas there were also 16 assists to add to the impressive record.

Then his injury woes ensued.

theoinjury

Abdominal injuries interrupted what had been a good start to the 2013/2014 season by Walcott, whereas the biggest blow came in January 2014, as he ruptured his ACL in a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup.

Ligament injuries are rarely ever kind to a player. Walcott was sidelined until late October 2015 and it wasn’t until December that the England international was totally injury-free. But even upon return, the 27-year-old was left with the task of recovering some kind of form halfway through the season, meanwhile trying to fit into a squad that had changed considerably since he was noted as a key figure.

The likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez arrived to become the flag bearers of Arsenal’s new era, Aaron Ramsey continued shortly after Walcott’s big injury to rise to prominence within the XI, Olivier Giroud grew in stature, not to mention the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck all accentuating the depth found at Arsenal upon the winger’s return.

Whether it be as a striker, or a winger, it became increasingly difficult to fit Walcott into the side and his apparent inconsistencies, extended deep into last season, made matters even more difficult for the ex-Southampton man.

The 2015/16 season saw Alex Iwobi and, occasionally, Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain favoured over Walcott on the flanks, with Giroud remaining the strongest contender to lead the line throughout much of the season.

In response to a relatively disappointing season, patience wore thin around the Emirates Stadium and it had become common to believe that Walcott was now surplus to requirements in the red half of north London.

walcottsub

The form was as disappointing as ever, the goal return as low as five for the season, which subsequently meant that the Englishman started just once in Arsenal’s last 14 games of the season and was overlooked by Andros Townsend, among others, for England’s provisional 26-man squad ahead of Euro 2016.

It appeared as though Walcott had lost it all, from the backing from the stands that began following him over 10 years ago, to his status for both club and country; all this at an age where he’s supposedly meant to be at his peak.

Arsenal’s transfer dealings were very curious, however, as Walcott publicly committed himself to the right wing slot in the meantime. Many considered the number 14 lucky to remain at the club ahead of Joel Campbell’s loan move to Sporting last month, whereas Jack Wilshere’s temporary spell at Bournemouth will also have served as a warning that nobody is entirely safe within Wenger’s ranks.

But, as revealed in the aftermath of the 3-0 demolition of Chelsea last Saturday, the Gunners boss stated that Walcott’s international snub had been enough to trigger change, with the 27-year-old’s new found form coming to fruition as a result of a one-on-one with the manager and months of hard work and application in the off season.

It’s now a new Walcott that has presented himself for the most recent campaign, and for all the criticism levelled at him in the past 12 months or so, his recent upturn in form deserves all the praise it’s currently getting.

The Arsenal number 14 hunger has found himself on the scoresheet three times in just six league games already this season and, most importantly, he should now be able to cement his good form with the experience gained throughout the peaks and troughs of his career.

Fresh from his 100th career goal and 350th Arsenal appearance, there are only positives to take away from a potentially rejuvenated version of Walcott. Few players in the world can offer such pace and instinctive nature on the pitch, whereas there will be plenty of clubs ill-prepared to deal with such a unique player when he’s in full swing.

His goals will be precious in backing up those expected to be registered at large by Giroud and Sánchez, arguably one of the great downfalls in Arsenal’s faltering attempt to challenge for the league title last season.

In instating/reinstating a player’s belief is where a manager earns his bread and Wenger has previous in this department with the overcoming of Laurent Koscielny’s and Aaron Ramsey’s darker days. It’s with this in mind that we now live by the hope that Walcott can follow and reignite his love story with the club.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *