I am of the belief that Theo Walcott is the most dangerous player in the Premier League without the ball at his feet.
There has been much made in the media about the depleting number of months left on the contract of Theo Walcott. It expires at the end of the year. And there is a seemingly worrying trend on the contract negotiation table within the Emirates Stadium of leaving it to the last year with the star players.
It is a trend that other clubs just don’t follow. Manchester United doesn’t leave contract negotiations until the last year of a player’s contract. They renegotiate 2-3 years early. If the player doesn’t accept the terms, then they have time to work on it, or the player is sold. Arsenal let Robin van Persie run his contract right down, before being forced into selling him. Bacary Sagna is worryingly close to the end of his contract, have there been negotiations with him..? No. And there is Theo.
There is also another trend of course, with Arsenal. The trend of selling the best player at the club every summer. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie, Alex Song, etc. Every single sale taking something fundamental and instrumental from the team dynamic. Be it precision passing, penetrative runs, support for the defence or the one-man-goal-show, a skill is lost that defined the Arsenal team before it, and left the Arsenal team after it longing after it like the long lost first love of an adolescent. There are always tears.
And the loss of Theo Walcott would bring just as many.
It is relatively unanimous that Robin van Persie is the most dangerous player in the Premier League with the ball at his feet. 30 goals last season and a blistering start to this season with United already is evidence enough of that, but I am of the belief that Theo Walcott is the most dangerous player in the Premier League without the ball at his feet.
It’s his pace. Everyone knows he has that in abundance, but despite being criticised for lacking a final product, making the wrong decision over the final ball, or shot, and not being clinical enough when he does shoot, (for which this season he’s shown an improvement as monumental as his initial rise) his pace is his main weapon. In terms of his final product, he has continued his far more consistent form from last season, with an even more impressive start to this. Having breached double figure goal returns in his previous two seasons, he has already hit the double figure mark this time round, and it’s not even Christmas yet. And, let’s not forget, back to point, his contract uncertainties seemingly have led to him starting far fewer games in this campaign. He has made more substitute appearances already this season than he did in all of the last season. Yet he has still delivered. And so, whilst he becomes more dangerous with the ball at his feet, it will always be his pace that is his heavy artillery.
His mere presence on a football pitch scares defenders. Because of his pace, they stand off him, knowing that if they get tight, and he turns them, they are not catching him. And of course, if a left back stands back even 5 yards, the rest of his defensive colleagues need to follow suit to keep the line. This creates more space in the middle of the park, for the creative players to ply their trade. Consider the talents that Arsenal current employ in the centre: Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Santiago Cazorla. Teams have seemingly worked out how to play against Arsenal this season; closing down the midfield, crowding out those creative influences. Now consider that Theo Walcott does not just push a left back back 5 yards. He pushes him back 10.
Theo Walcott has been on the bench, or injured, far too often this season. The impact of this has been clear, with opposition teams being able to strangle the midfield, and frustrate Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla. That has stopped Arsenal. Walcott would release them, just by being there.
Theo Walcott: the most dangerous player in the Premier League without the ball at his feet.