03 May 2013

Against QPR, Walcott will be unleashed

Last week, Theo Walcott scored for the first time since January. As we prepare for the run-in against QPR, here's hoping that that goal has broken the seal on the lad, releasing the pressure to score that has built up ever since he put pen to paper on that new contract in (coincidentally?) January. Even as we await news on the starting line-up, I'm issuing my call for Walcott to start, whether it's in that central role that he covets so much or out on the wing, where he actually seems to thrive. Wenger has suggested that it will be Podolski who starts at center as he did against Man U.  It's not like Podolski set the world on fire with his performance, but he's just as good an option for the central role as Walcott, by which I mean "as good as we have".

Here's a quick break-down of Walcott's appearances, courtesy of whoscored.com. As you can see, he's been very prolific and been so against high-quality opponents like Schalke, Spurs, Everton, Chelsea, Liverpool (yes, Liverpool), and Bayern. That's an impressive c.v. However, playing from the central role, he's been less impressive, tallying four goals and two assists in six appearances. Yes, his whoscored rating is a 7.3, similar to his 7.32 rating as an attacking midfielder/wing, but take a closer look: one goal against Reading, and three goals and two assists in that laugher against Newcastle. In short, similar production but against much weaker opponents.

I wish therefore that someone could disabuse Walcott of the notion that (a) he should play more centrally and (b) there's more glory to be had in that role. Whatever position you play in, a goal creates glory,  and he has shown that he can score goals more often from the wide role than from the center. It's as if he sees the center role as the lead guitarist's role, and he resents playing rhyhtm or bass. Yet when you hand him the lead role, he stumbles through it. He's at his best coming in from the right, simple as that, and the sooner he gets this through his skull, the better off we all are.

Just as vital as where he plays is when he scores. He's had a feast-and-famine kind of season, scoring goals in bunches and then disappearing altogether. This was true in the first half of the season when he'd put together a string of three or four games in which he'd tally, or a game in which he'd get a hat-trick, only to do little to nothing else for a stretch of games. It's been especially in the season as a whole, in which the feast came in the first half and the famine has lasted for almost the entire second. Here's hoping, then, that that goal against Man U unleashes the beast within and he can go on a tear to close out the season. With Giroud out, we need him now more than ever, and these last three games present him a sparkling opportunity to lead the team across the line, disproving his critics wrong and earning plaudits for a flurry of goals that puts him in the top ten, if not the top five, in the Prem. He's caught in a four-way log-jam at 12 along with Cazorla, Rooney, and Dzeko, and three goals in our last three games should be enough to finish in the top ten. I'll therefore adjust my call for goals from my previous post, hoping that Walcott can add at least one to our tally. Come on, Theo. You know you want it!