Theo Walcott has an interesting story, still only 22-years-old, he has done a lot in what is already a 6-year career. He has been to a World Cup after he was selected for England in 2006, only months after earlier becoming England’s youngest ever senior player at the age of 17 years and 75 days. He has already played 214 times in his career, scoring 40 goals in the process. Perhaps one of his biggest achievements came off the field as he picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in December 2005…just call him ‘Mr Personality’.
This isn’t an ‘I love Theo’ type article before you think otherwise…Personally, I look at Walcott with my jealous eyes and think ‘what a ****, check him out with his Michael Jackson voice…his hair looks like its sprayed on in a very Jermaine Jackson kind of way, but I deffo would like to take his Mrs out for a fish dinner and never call her again. I then wonder if me and Theo were pals, if at the end of a nice evening out with both of our girlfriends, he would be willing to put his keys in the pot and I get to take Mel back to their castle in the Ferrari and he can take Crystal back to mine in my Ford Escort…he will probably be up for it, as well as a good footballer, he just seems such a nice guy.
Just to rub in the fact Theo is so great and perfect he also secured his first boot deal with Nike when he was only 14, Walcott was also the youngest ever Arsenal player to appear in European competition. We also know Walcott writes kids books as well as having published his own autobiography. Theo Walcott was also nearly in Harry Potter. Theo Walcott was a torchbearer for the Olympic Flame. He met his girlfriend Melaine in West Quay shopping centre in Southampton (I’ve been there!). We know he is a massive Liverpool fan.
We know all these things about Walcott, we know about his playing career, his awards and records and even his personal life…but we still don’t know what his best position is.
Is he a forward? Is he a winger? Is he both? Where does he play best? Where would he play best? This is one of the few things no one seems to know about Theo Walcott and it is bugging me. I speak to friends who remember seeing him play for Southampton and say he was a winger for them. Checking Wikipedia and after reading a few articles I see him referred to as ‘a player bought as a striker’, but despite needing forwards at Arsenal, Theo has never really had his chance. And as Arsenal lineup against Dortmund in tonight’s Champions League tie, you will no doubt see this ‘striker’ playing on the wing again.
A good place to find some clarity on this issue is via some stats. Walcott’s career stat headlines are 210 games played in all competitions, 40 goals scored in all competitions and 31 assists. It pretty even, so as a comparison I am going to compare these headlines to those of a winger and a striker. Aaron Lennon is 24-years-old and is Theo’s rival for the wide position for England. Spurs’ Lennon has played 281 times in his career, scoring 24 goals and chipping in with 60 assists. Gabby Agbonlahor, Aston Villa’s 25-year-old England international, has played 238 times, scored 61 goals and had 33 assists in all competitions.
Lennon is widely regarded as a winger and Agbonlahor a striker, although he does operate in wider positions. When looking at goal-to-game and goal-to-assist ratio’s the stats make interesting reading.
Goals 0.19% ratio
Assists 0.14% ratio
Goals 0.08% ratio
Assists 0.21% ratio
Goals 0.25% ratio
Assists 0.13% ratio
We can clearly see that Lennon has the best assist ratio and Agbonlahor has the best goal ratio, a result that was expected. Walcott has a better goal ratio than assist, which is impressive since he does operate in wide areas and predominantly is there to provide service. This doesn’t help too much with a definitive answer either way about what position he is best suited to.
If you look at Walcott he has more of what a striker needs than he does a winger. We all know about his pace and dribbling ability, so it really comes down to shooting ability vs crossing ability. Unless Walcott crosses along the ground, basically a pass, he isn’t particularly good at crossing, he is no Beckham for example, but then again neither is someone like Lennon. When it comes to finishing Walcott is good. He can finish with either foot from anywhere and he is very good when it comes to one-on-one situations.
He has more goals than he does assists and when you watch him he seems to have more natural tendency to gravitate towards the goal than his does head to the bi-line. For me he is a striker and if that is the case, and he isn’t that good at crossing, why do both Arsenal and England insist on only ever deploying him as a winger? He isn’t prolific with assists so why the insistence on playing him there?
Arsenal have had to change their system due to the lack of natural wide players in the team, so Walcott has less opportunity to play as part of a front two. It is frustrating as he would be a great foil for van Persie and the balance would be good with a little and large combo. Perhaps his omission from contention to play as a front to for England is more shocking as England have struggled to find a partner for Rooney. Walcott could be more effective as a striker for England, he has the attributes to be successful at international football, much like Michael Owen used to be, and he has already drawn praise from the world’s best Messi who said “he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against”.
There’s no doubt Theo’s size originally lead him to play out on the wing for Arsenal as he was seen as too slight to play through the middle, but he has matured and toughened up and perhaps the same way Thierry Henry was bought in from the wing, Walcott should also. But Wenger is the master at this, already having overseen Henry’s transition from a 17 youth team player at Monaco to an established legend at Arsenal. It’s not like Walcott isn’t performing and maybe the goals he chips in with, out-weigh the lack of assists…a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality. Either way it still leaves me wondering if Walcott could be a really good striker?