The Importance Of Being Theo
English football is littered with Great White Hopes, talented youngsters who have failed to deliver when push came to shove. Few in the modern game have had a longevity which matched their early promise, injury or poor career choices have blighted them. Following on the heels of Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott was seen as a sign that the misnomer ‘Golden Generation‘ might have been applied too early to the England team of 2002.
In a World Cup year, injuries are the key focus of media speculation when their imperialistic bombast is not slating the South African hosts for their construction skills (wrongly) and Fifa for their greed (rightly). The England team would not be ready for a tournament if a metatarsal was not snapped into pieces. It seems that the bone in the foot of the star of the team is old hat; this time focus is on burnout and wayward back or shoulders.
Walcott’s rise was meteoric and entirely in keeping with the media age we live in. Sparkling performances for Southampton brought the attention of the big clubs. To the delight of various editors, a right royal bunfight for his signature ensued, won eventually by Arsenal, the promise of being developed in a team which promoted youth that could play football being decisive.
The big money paid automatically meant that expectations were raised by journalists; Wenger developed him slowly, bringing him onto the wing where his biggest attribute – pace – was utilised to great effect. Too slight to be the central striker he desires, Walcott showed great promise to the extent that the final act of folly from Sven was to include him in the squad for Germany 2006.
For the player, such experience was invaluable. For the national team, carrying a passenger at the finals was a pointless exercise. No blame should have been attached to Walcott, it was not his choice yet he has been tarred by that brush. His goal in the Carling Cup Final seven months later emphasised the potential. His Arsenal career though stuttered through hereditary problems with his shoulders. The pattern of growth problems suffered by Steven Gerrard seems to be repeating itself with Theo; different injuries but the same stop-start seasons.
Expectations are high. Everyone can see the possibilities that Walcott has. I do not think he will be as prolific as Michael Owen or Robbie Fowler, his ‘killer instinct’ seems not to be as in-bred. When he eventually moves centrally, he is more likely to be in the mould of Henry, creating opportunities through speed; he simply needs to improve his finishing.
Coming back from a long lay-off this season, questions are being asked whether he will be fit for the World Cup. A not unreasonable angle for the media to take since they have a long time to fill in but to be subjected to scathing criticism for his performances thus far is wide of the mark.
Being absent dulls match sharpness; no matter what player, all need time to get back into the ‘groove’ of competitive games to bring themselves back to their best. Walcott is no different. Critics also forget he is young and he has yet to fully harness the mix of pace with final product. Against Sunderland, he outpaced his defender and got space to put a cross into the box; alas Nasri was more than ten yards behind him, reaching the edge of the area as the ball skewed past the far post.
Experience will bring knowledge and confidence to Walcott so that he can know what to do in those situations. It is too soon to expect him to be all-conquering right now yet this is not how he is perceived. Personally, I would like Walcott to be able to play on the left as well as the right. That stage of his development is not coming along as when playing there, he is too easily channelled into a dead end by defenders. He has the skill and the pace to do more.
Walcott is in exactly the same place in his career as Bendtner; they can go on to become Arsenal greats. They appear to have the desire and the talent, it is down to the coaches and manager to harness them. Is it too much to ask that they be given the patience, support and encouragement from supporters to help them along the way?
Posted on February 23, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, England, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Theo Walcott, World Cup 2010. Bookmark the permalink. 460 Comments.