The weekend passes and we are back to the somewhat disconcerting feeling of comfort after an unspectacular win against the Saints. Entering the week absent of stress is a welcome change to previous campaigns when we would have somehow managed to lose a 2-goal lead to a side down at the bottom. It was a fairly poor game of football all round but coming away with the result highlights the maturing element to the side this year. They are making winning a habit and it is great to see. We were undoubtedly fortunate to be served a goal on a plate and the award of the penalty was a total lack of discipline on Fonte’s part. Regardless the history books will say 2-0 to the Arsenal and that’s all that concerns me.
Other results at the weekend also worked in our favour. I don’t want to speak to soon but a slight roll reversal seems to be in play with Utd. Them stepping up for the big game against us before failing to a team they should comfortable beat (sure Van Persie is enjoying that all too familiar feeling). Tottenham also got well and truly dispatched by Man City. I wonder when 5pur2 will stop pretending to be a big club and concede life outside the top 4 is set to continue. Calls for AVB’s head are madness from fans but I am of the belief that if they were to make such a rash call it really would spell the end of their era close to the top. So by all means let it happen.
Anyways enough smugness as it is bound to come back to haunt me. We host Marseille tonight and it is another huge game (as they all are these days), a win takes us to 12 points and should all but secure us qualification to the next round. This is the sort of game, given what’s on the line, which we would previously have potentially bottled but given my current confidence in this team I think we will get a solid win. Marseille are yet to get a point so far this year and from what I have seen of them there is little they possess that can pose a genuine threat.
Another prospect that is exciting me is the return of Theo Walcott. People who have read this blog before will know that I am not his greatest advocate, but his small introduction on Saturday reminded me of just how quick he is. So far this year our team has been essentially void of it, there were a couple of times on the weekend that highlighted the threat he can create. One moment in particular was when he made one of his signature runs in behind the defence, Ozil played a curling ball from the left flank and although successfully blocked by Fonte it gave us a taste of what we have in stall. Ozil’s ability to pick him out behind the defence adds a whole new dimension to our game and his shear presence means no team can risk the high lines we have seen at times this year. The long awaited presence of the likes of Walcott and Chamberlain (proper wingers) is going to allow further developments to our game and I am intrigued to see how Wenger balances the team following their return.
This time last year Theo Walcott held an automatic starting berth in the Arsenal team, lining up and scoring in the 8-2 defeat to Utd. It was on that day that a 19 yr old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his debut for the Club. Fast forward one year exactly and Walcott was left to warm the bench by both Arsene Wenger at Liverpool and Roy Hodgson in Moldova, both at the behest of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
After an uncertain summer of transfer rumours surrounding Walcott, a player running into the last year of his contract, is this the changing of the guard and potentially the beginning of the end for Walcott at Arsenal?
Comparisons between these two players is inevitable. Both coming through the famed Southampton youth system, the Ox made his debut at 16 yrs and 199 days, coming off the bench during a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town to become the Club’s second youngest appearance maker, behind Theo Walcott. Both have blistering pace and both play on the wing, at least for the time being. Both also have aspirations of playing through the middle. Arsene has hinted during pre-season that the Ox will be considered as one of the 3 central midfielders more frequently this year. Meanwhile Walcott’s desire to play as a striker is well documented but unrealistic in the current system.
In many ways, The Ox’s rise to prominence couldn’t have been timed any better. Walcott’s contact negotiations dragged on throughout the summer, and still no agreement has been found. However critical you want to be about our transfer policy, rarely does Wenger allow a player to see out the last year of his contract with the risk of them leaving on a bosman the following summer, rendering the Walcott situation bizarre. Wenger has spoken of his confidence that Theo will stay, but you get the feeling that, after the disrespectful and ungrateful way Arsene has been treated by former players over the past few summers, and with the rise of the Ox, Walcott may have damaged his relationship with Arsene and the Club. I would have been very tempted to sell him for a reasonable price this summer with Liverpool and City supposedly lingering (why I’m not sure).
Apparently Theo has demanded £100,000 a week which would see him enter the very top bracket of earners at the Club, something I’m just not sure he deserves judging by his performances on the pitch. Last season was Walcott’s best statistically with 11 goals and 12 assists in all competitions (46 matches). Clearly when analysing a player, stats are a good place to start, but Walcott is no normal player. Ever since Sven took him to the world cup, a huge amount has been expected of him. Ever since Theo scored that hatrick against Croatia and went on that incredible run against Liverpool, we knew that he was capable of great things. This perhaps is his downfall. He has rare qualities that no other player possesses, namely ridiculous pace, however he also lacks the technical capabilities necessary to harness these qualities. The Ox shares crazy speed but he has strength, power, vision, aggression, incredible touch, accurate passing and crossing and a ferocious shot with either foot. He has all the raw materials necessary, Theo doesn’t.
Telling also was the lack of concern from Arsenal fans when rumours of a Walcott transfer emerged a few weeks ago. Similarly to Alex Dmitri Song Billong, the feeling seemed to be that he was replaceable, with Jesus Navas even being suggested as a possible replacement.
Meanwhile the Ox is going from strength to strength. Roy Hodgson singled out both Cleverly and Chamberlain after the game on Friday. He’s even gone and followed Wilshere’s lead and got himself on the cover of FIFA 13.
Yes Walcott is more experienced and more of a natural wide-man, but he really hasn’t developed in the way that I expected him to over the last six and a half years. Yes, six and a half years!! I still think Walcott is a useful man to have around but not if he wants silly money, and only if he is used shrewdly against teams playing high up the pitch.
Arsene I urge you to keep playing the Ox on the right hand side. As a great footballing philosopher once said about the 18 year old Michael Owen, ‘if you’re good enough then you’re old enough’.. (Glenn Hoddle 1997)