I have written many blogs on Theo Walcott and I am not alone in that, but this one is different as it is reflective. Eight years ago he was automatically a fan favourite from day one, our sole Englishman in an array of multi-national talent. Why is thus so significant? Well because he was 16, ill-advisedly taken to a World Cup, before playing for Arsenal and had a ludicrous weight of expectation on his young shoulders. His and Arsenal’s detractors criticized him when he played for not delivering and Arsenal for not playing him enough.
Arsenal fans have on occasion become frustrated with his lack of consistency, even during a match – The first 5-2 v Spurs of course is the perfect example of this. However 2 things have prompted me to do a little research, well a lot actually and this blog is the outcome. Firstly when writing about Oxlade-Chamberlain and the expectation we have of him led me to compare him with both Gascoigne and Walcott. With this came the realization that most creative players are not hitting their peak until 23/24. Secondly I read and enjoyed the superb season reflective on Theo Walcott, by Michael Jeffares on Gunners Town, which very clearly illustrated how little plaudits he had gained for his substantial contribution to our season.
I strive for originality on this site both in guests and in my own work which is increasingly hard. Just occasionally however my research excites me, when I know a theory that I had in my head has been borne out by the facts. Well today is one of those so I hope you are pleasantly surprised too by what I have uncovered about our speedy right-sided attacker/winger.
It was born out of Michael’s article in which he noticed that despite ending the season with 21 goals and 14 assists for Arsenal, no one was mentioning Theo in dispatches. In the Gunners Town awards the readers voted him 5th in the Player of the Season poll. This is staggering in the scheme of things and whilst accepting that Cazorla deserves top plaudits are we guilty of taking Theo for granted? I think perhaps we were so relieved that he had signed the contract attention that we moved on and underappreciated his contribution, particularly in the final few weeks. Well I hope when you see the fruits of my research you will sit back, take stock and think again.
I decided to explore where Walcott’s contribution might sit at 24 when compared to his peers in the Premier League and indeed in some instances his rivals for his national team shirt. To make this a relevant analysis however I sought only to compare each players achievements up until the season in which they turned 24. I am also only looking at individuals who play wide in a 442 , 433 or in our case a 4231.
|Wide Attacker||Age on club debut||Age now||Goals to 24||Assists to 24||Combined Key Contributions|
|G Bale #||16||23||53||40||93|
# Bale is only 23
Well I hope that impresses you as much as it did me. We forget just how much Theo Walcott has contributed for Arsenal at an age where many players have not even begun to reach their peak.
At 24 the likes of Cazorla and Silva were regulars at the top end of La Liga and their contributions in goals and assist are some way behind Theo’s.
Nani at 24 had played in 3 Premier League title wining sides and his figures are half that of Walcott’s at the same age.
Valencia had barely made a consistent impact at Wigan!
2 years ago England decided not to take Walcott to the World Cup preferring the likes of Milner and Lennon?? What did Capello want from his wide players? Not goals and assists obviously!
What about the man we all love to hate? Samir Nasri, 33 goals and 39 assists in France and for the Arsenal by the time he hit 24. About 60% of what Theo has achieved.
Only Bale and Mata have made similarly telling impacts at the top level at such a young age as Theo Walcott.
The even better news is that the is an obvious trend with Theo and that is one of a marked improvement in recent years – Yes Chris Waddle you bitter man his football brain is very evidently present and absorbing experience and know how like a sponge. I wish I could research the assists from back then but I can tell you that in 190 appearances for Newcastle before he left for Spurs, he has only managed 52 goals and he was 25 when he transferred. That Chris would be 11 less than Theo ‘no football brain’ Walcott has at a year younger?
|Season||Walcott Arsenal Goals||Walcott Arsenal Assists|
So we Gooners should be proud of the player Walcott has become and be confident in the knowledge that he is only going to improve with age. Of course we now know that as he is getting better he will be doing into for the foreseeable future in London N5.
Who knows what the figures could have been also had he not missed some many long spells through injury. If we keep the same formation I genuinely hope he stays out wide, instinctively cutting in when appropriate and using his pace to beat the full back more often.
I would like to offer just one final piece of research to complete the article, to give some conclusive context before I wrap up on this one. I thought it might be interesting to see where the wide players of the best sides in Europe were at 24. Would Bayern and Barcelona be fair?
|Wide Player||Goals at 24||Assists at 24||Total key contributions|
Can’t really argue with that can we?
Ribery had barely seen his career kick into gear at 24 and look what he has achieved subsequently We all remember Robben terrorizing defences whilst winning 2 titles with Cheslea when he was 22/23 and even his stats are well behind Theo’s!
Pedro and Sanchez are only 25 and 24 respectively playing consistently for the best side in Europe, many would argue until this year and they can’t match Theo for goals or assists.
So there you have it in black and white, or mostly in red and while, Theo Walcott has few peers when it comes to what he ahs contributed to his club’s cause at such a young age. We for get because he has been with us for so long that he is only 24 and if he continues at the rate he is and stay with us for the length of his contract he will almost certainly be in the top 3 or 4 scorers in our history.
I will finish with a video of every goal and assist from last season as a reminder of what out Theo delivered in our cause: