09 May 2013

Van Persie predicted 20 goals for Walcott. Walcott has 20.

It would be a stretch to say that Theo Walcott has flourished since the departure of Robin van Persie, but he has had the most-productive season of his career thus far with two games still to play, and he might be emerging from a months-long drought that saw him go eleven appearances without scoring. However, he might just have broken the drought, scoring in consecutive games for the first time since the end of January, when he scored in three games in a row (Chelsea, West Ham, and Liverpool). With Giroud out, Poldi limping along with an ankle injury, and Gervinho, well, Gervinho, we need Theo at his best to get us over the finish line. Even when he wasn't scoring, he has been creating chances for teammates, whether it was in the form of actual assists or in the form of creating space for others to flow into. He did both against Norwich, for example, coming on for the last 30 minute against a team that had parked the bus to defend a 1-0 lead. He used his pace intelligently to stretch their defense out of shape, opening and exposing that back-line for others to exploit. If he can continue to score, he'll offer a lethal three-pronged arsenal to our attack, the likes of which Wigan and Newcastle will be all but helpless to repel. A strong finish this year might propel Theo to a higher level next year.

No-less an authority on scoring goals than Robin van Persie had this to say about Theo in February last year:
I love Theo, I honestly love him. I don’t understand the criticism he gets. He was sharp, he was playing fantastically, and, like anyone, he misses chances. But I miss chances, Cristiano Ronaldo misses chances and Lionel Messi misses chances. It’s life. If you look at his assist rate, it is unbelievable. And trust me, he will score. He will get 20 goals at least every season. Have faith in him. I do.
The references to Ronaldo and Messi are a bit much (even including himself in that class is a bit much), but his point is still valid. Van Persie's hit the nail on the head, at least once. Depending on who you ask, Theo scored his 20th against Man U or against QPR (whoscored.com credits him with 20 goals, ESPN with 21). Whichever way you slice it, he's scored 20 goals. His last two have come in a classic style reminiscent of the legend many hope he might emulate more often, receiving a through-ball on the wing that he plays back across to the far-post. Henry trademarked this from the left; perhaps Theo will soon do the same from the right, taking advantage of the natural curl a left-footed shot has to put the ball inside the far-post just beyond the keeper's reach.

Statuesque...
Theo is still a ways away from making this a signature-move, and it's of course going to be a while before he can pull it off with the frequency or panache of Henry (these last two goals squirted under the keeper instead of curling around him), but how brilliant it would be to see him do so! With Henry's MLS contract set to expire, perhaps Arsenal could convince him to come back to Arsenal as a coach to work more closely with Theo and our cadre of other strikers. In fact, I'd go so far as to ask for this to happen as quickly as possibleas one more inducement to strikers looking for a new home: "Join Arsenal. Contend for the Prem League title. Play Champions League football [ahem]. Learn from Thierry Henry." We could do worse than that, and if the flashes (and occasional stretches) of brilliance are anything to go by, Theo's on the verge of doing quite a bit better.

With error-prone Wigan on the horizon and free-falling Newcastle just beyond, let's see Theo get his first multi-goal game since his December evisceration of the Toon. While we're at it, is there someone out there who can come up with a nickname for Theo that's better than "the Newbury Express"?  Too many syllables. For someone known for his speed, it seems like his nickname should also be fast. One word, one syllable. Flash. Dash. Something.