Good morning, let’s start with the transfer rumor du jour: Chicharito to Arsenal.
Chance that I would like Chicharito at Arsenal: 85%. I have long admired Hernandez: he works hard, gets into great positions to score, and he has great touch. Not everything he tries comes off and he can be wasteful sometimes. But he has the ability to break down a defense, he’s quick, and he makes fantastic runs. Probably one of the most instinctive players I’ve seen in terms of creating spaces, getting himself into space, knowing what he wants to do with the ball before he gets it, and being available to receive the ball. He would be what Theo Walcott was supposed to be as a forward, albeit slightly less quick.
Chance that Chicharito is going to sign for Arsenal: 10%. I would normally put this number higher but the Little Pea had this to say about rumors: “I don’t know if the rumours surrounding me are true or not.” For those of you who don’t know, this is exactly not how Arsenal operate in the transfer market. If they are after a player they speak directly to the player. Arsenal did this with Suarez, with Özil, with Alexis, with Xhaka, and they would be doing this with Chicharito. If Arsenal were after him, he would know. Wenger does this because he wants assurances. Once a player is on the market, Wenger knows Arsenal can’t compete in a bidding war, so he wants the player to commit to Arsenal before the formal bid is placed. Yes, I know that some would classify that as “tapping up” but it’s done all the time and it’s only tapping up if it angers the selling club.
Obviously, there is a chance that Arsenal are after Chicharito, maybe they asked Bayer Leverkusen if they could talk to him? Also, Chicharito could be acting coy and saying exactly what Arsenal want him to say. That’s why I’m at 10% now. As always, I reserve the right to adjust that upward as new, reliable (read; not stuff I conjectured off twitter), information becomes available.
Now, on to the real story; Theo Walcott and the case of YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME.
In case you don’t read any news except what I publish (and clearly you’re mental) you know by now that Theo Walcott has said he no longer wants to play up front and now wants to play back on the right. “I’ve said to the manager that I want to be known for playing on the right again,” was his direct quote. He still maintains that he can play up front but he wants to “be known” for playing on the right, reiterating “I know I can do a job up front as well as on the right, but I want to make my position the right-hand side.”
It’s an incredible statement on his part because it’s basically admitting that he’s a failure at center forward, the position that he held Arsenal to ransom in order to play. Arseblog has maintained for quite some time that Theo Walcott demanded a central role be written into his contract and that there were promises to that effect. And so, Arsenal played Walcott in the central role, and gave him chances to blossom.
But instead of growing into the position, Walcott regressed. And this pre-season he had supposedly come back stronger, faster, and more determined than ever to prove he was ready for the forward role. He told us that he spent the summer working on “quickness” both in touch and in thought but when he stepped on the pitch, he was laborious, turning the ball over, constantly going the same direction (to his right), and running into blind alleys.
This idea of “quickness” of thought and action is something that I literally read in an article yesterday. Wenger was asked how an academy should be designed and he said “The most important under 14 years old is Technique. After 14 Speed becomes more and more important. Not physical speed but reaction and speed with the ball.” Walcott, for all of his foot speed has never been able to truly play quickly and now here he is at age 27 trying to learn.
What is incredible about Walcott’s entire career has been Wenger’s indulgence of the player. I’m sure that Walcott is a hard working player, probably the most dedicated professional there is. That’s a quality that Wenger holds in high regard. But what Walcott has in hard work, he lacks in technique and the all important speed of play. So, why has Wenger indulged him all these years? Not just in terms of giving him playing time, when he clearly wasn’t the best player on the pitch, but in terms of giving him the choicest position over the last three years? These are questions that I can’t answer.
Dropping him back to the right would be a further indulgence, not a punishment. It’s an indulgence because he lacks the ability to break down a team with a dribble like Oxlade-Chamberlain does. It’s an indulgence because he lacks the defensive awareness and grit that Joel Campbell has. And it would be the ultimate insult to those two players to let Theo Walcott take back the right wing spot. Isn’t Wenger always worried about “killing” young players? Allowing Theo Walcott to play on the right would be like metaphorically dipping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a vat of acid, then throwing Ox’s melting body onto Campbell’s legs. If I was Ox and Walcott started ahead of me on the right? I would demand to be sold.
And what will Theo do on the right? He doesn’t make a good pairing with Bellerin. He can’t cut inside on his left. So, that leaves… Play in right-footed crosses? Sure, maybe at the end of games when we are super desperate and willing to lose the game by a few goals but want another option. Though, I would argue that Campbell and Ox aren’t much worse than Theo at that and that Bellerin is actually far superior. I hate to say it but I think Walcott is easily third or fourth choice right wing at Arsenal right now. I wouldn’t let him start wide over Iwobi.
This whole situation with Walcott is now a mess. That he demanded a central role, failed, and now wants his old job back shows me a player who is gone mentally. He no longer has the fight needed to win any position on the pitch. But worse, that he is a 27 year old player who this summer finally started working on the speed at which he plays the game — the speed of thought and action, not just running — that’s a failure on Arsene Wenger’s part. In fact, Theo Walcott’s career, from the indulgences of the position, to the salary he is currently on, to the fact that he’s still even an Arsenal player has been a huge failure on Arsene Wenger’s part.
Sadly, I think Arsenal are stuck with him. I disagree with Arseblog that the West Ham’s of the League will pay Walcott the same money that Leicester pay Vardy. And I especially disagree now that he has come out and publicly proclaimed himself a failed project. Huge salary, mentally gone, technically not at the top level. Who wants that?