Thursday, 18 March 2010

It’s a big game for: Theo Walcott

With all his critics this season, Theo Walcott has the perfect opportunity to find form as we head towards the business end of the season.

Walcott has started just six games in the Premier League this season, after missing the early part of this campaign through injury.

He didn’t start a Premier League game until the home game with Blackburn in October and scored on his return to first team action.

Since then he has been in and out of the side, again down to injury.

The English media, believing he is England’s next great thing behind Wayne Rooney, have been keen to pour over all his ups and downs.

Having performed well in his most recent comeback against Burnley, Theo was dropped to the bench for our most recent games with Porto and Hull.

I can understand this for two reasons. Wenger wanting to go with the more defensive Emmanuel Eboue in front of Bacary Sagna against Porto when conceding a goal would have been devastating and leaving us with a mountain to climb to get back into the tie. And with Hull likely to play a more aggressive game and try and get at our players in the league, the Sagna – Eboue combination provides a more stable base in which we can counter attack from.

But with West Ham visiting the Grove on Saturday, who are in the lower echelons of the league (16th), I can see Wenger recalling Walcott to the starting line up.

He will provide the width and pace we need to stretch a West Ham team that was pummelled 4-1 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend.

When Theo played against Burley, Arsenal created 28 shots, while we had 10 fewer efforts on goal against Hull.

He is improving all the time as a player and I just hope that he can go on to be the player we all want him to be.

I think there is too high an expectation on him to be a Fabregas/Rooney type player who has everything in their locker at such a young age.

Under Wenger, Walcott has no doubt improved. But his injuries have set him back and I’m sure he would like to be starting regularly for Arsenal like he has been during the previous two seasons.

Lets not forget though, he is also facing competition with not only Eboue for that right hand side-attacking berth, but from a returning Tomas Rosicky.

With the formation changing this season, competition for places a starting place is higher than before.
This will spur all players on and I think no one can rest on their past achievements within the side. After all, with everyone fit we are one formidable side, with countless attacking options.

With eight games to go, I can see Walcott coming back into the side stronger than ever. He needs to be. I don’t think his World Cup position is in any doubt what so ever but to be in his best form to make sure of a starting place he has to perform well for Arsenal.

This game is the start for Theo to push on. He needs to be consistent. Provide good movement in front of the midfield, know when to attack the box and when to stick wide and of course know when to be greedy and go for goal himself.

I do not think he is the finished article. Far from it. But he has the right mentor in Wenger to push him in the right direction.

West Ham will be no pushovers. It is a London derby after all. But home advantage will tell, I am sure. And we have to make sure that unlike the league game at Upton Park, we don’t let a winning position slip away.

Win, and we go top of the league. All be it for 24 hours.

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