Prior to his return everyone was crying out for a fit-again Theo Walcott. The tune seems to have changed somewhat amidst persistent bench time and contract negotiations.
There are constant murmurings among fans on social media, blogs and the like slagging Walcott for his lack of defensive awareness, but when has he ever offered his right back much cover? He’s there to attack, scare, stretch defences and score goals. Something he knows a thing or two about.
Admittedly the Englishman has hardly helped himself recently when he is presented the opportunity to play. But you have to consider this is a player who has been out injured for the best part of a year and is competing against the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, not to mention The Ox who has been superb when fit and Danny Welbeck who offers more stability and balance.
There’s one undeniable fact however and that is we’ve won every game in March. Interestingly Theo’s been a peripheral figure during that time, so it certainly proves Arsene Wenger has a nice balance in his squad at present.
Circumstances haven’t helped him either. Theo’s not exactly a player you bring off the bench while trying to hold a 2-1 lead after all.
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Word from within the club is that the 26-year-old is a dedicated, serious trainer and worked incredibly hard to come back fitter than ever from his ACL injury. Rumours of a training ground bust up have been flatly denied but appear likely. He did after all claim negotiations over a new deal have yet to take place despite contrasting comments from Arsene Wenger. Much of the contract haggling is no doubt down to the players representatives trying to squeeze as much blood from the stone, however Theo is probably more interested seeing how he fits into the Gunners puzzle long term.
So where to from here? Walcott needs to prove he’s worth a new deal and impress when he gains valuable minutes. He looked lively in front of goal when he first returned in the New Year, but his touch has been horrific at times and we cannot afford to concede possession so easily.
Theo also needs to offer more from the defensive side of his game. His lack of awareness to shut down Bentaleb against the Spuds proved costly with Harry Kane heading home from the resulting cross.
There are plenty of matches to come including an FA Cup semi final while injuries are a certainty. Arsenal’s No14 should have plenty of chances to prove his worth between now and the end of the season.
I’m a massive fan of Theo, I’d be sad to see him go. Arsenal fans need to remember the lad spent most of 2014 on the sidelines and must be patient. Look at how long it took for Aaron Ramsey to find his feet again after his horrific injury. Admittedly time is running out for the former Southampton speedster, but we need players like Theo in the squad next season.
Let’s back Walcott.