Theo ! Theo ! Theo !

A guest post from @foreverheady

The autumn of 2012 was an interesting time for The Arsenal. The three new signings, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla were settling in quite nicely, but their arrival early in the summer, initially greeted by the fans with some degree of enthusiasm, did little to compensate for the disappointment felt when both Alex Song and Robin van Persie left the club for what, to them, seemed greener fields elsewhere.  The first few results seemed promising: despite successive nil-all draws suggesting that Giroud wasn’t quite the replacement for RvP some had hoped for, a comprehensive win at Anfield with goals from the other two new boys and a display of poise, power and grace from Diaby suggested that the season might turn out well after all. A thrashing of Southampton and a hard-earned away point against Manchester City confirmed the promise, and, albeit prematurely, some were talking of a title challenge. However, and especially in light of the two afore mentioned departures, one particular cloud hovered over the horizon. Theo Walcott, who had been with the club since he was 16, and now surely entering his most productive footballing years, was entering the final stages of his contract, and as yet had not put pen to paper to commit himself to the club for another term.

As autumn gave way to winter the mood around the Emirates darkened too. A number of poor results saw the team slip down the table, injuries (especially to Diaby) began to take their toll and an embarrassing League Cup exit on a frozen Bradford pitch seemed to suggest that the stadium project was nothing but a white elephant, draining the club of money, players and hope. The vultures were circling, and Walcott was the prime target. Not many would have bet heavily on him staying at the club with the January transfer window about to open. Much was made at the time over his desire to play centrally, but I think there was more to it than just positional preference. Money came into it, of course, but also I think a desire to be central to the plans of the club – and also a need to know that the club was worth being central to. Just after Christmas he got his wish to play up front as lone striker in an astonishing game against Newcastle, and he answered those critics who suggested that he lacked the physical presence and skill set to be a Number 9 with three fine goals: the first a Henryesque finish from left of centre into the bottom far corner, the second a predatory effort in the box, the third an exquisite chip after an audacious solo run. 7-3 the  score line, and as he acknowledged the applause with a solo lap of the ground after the final whistle it was impossible to know whether he was saying goodbye to The Emirates or just revelling in the moment. I felt sure he was off. Only he will truly know, but I suspect he could not have failed to be moved by the warmth of his reception and the love the crowd had for him.  But much to my surprise in mid-January, sign da ting he did, and for a while he must have wondered what he had done.  Defeats by City and Chelsea, a premature Fifth Round FA Cup departure to Blackburn and then an away defeat to Tottenham saw the Gunners fortunes, while not quite at rock-bottom, at least feeling suspiciously much like it. We trailed Spurs by seven points, we were about to be knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich, confidence was low and a season that had started reasonably optimistically was threatening to unravel.

Except it didn’t. Changes to the defence tightened things up, and Theo started to fire on all cylinders. A ten-game unbeaten run in the league, inspired by vital goals from him, saw The Arsenal secure fourth place on the final day of the season, breaking our neighbour’s hearts into the bargain. I suspect we may never properly know quite how important a placing that was, how seminal Walcott’s strikes were. What we do know is that by denying Tottenham Champions League football they found it impossible to stop Gareth Bale from leaving them. And we also perhaps know that because Real Madrid needed to fund his purchase, they made Mesut Ozil available, and that The Arsenal were able to step in and buy him. Inspired by that acquisition the Gunners played some brilliant football at the start of 13/14 and went on, of course, to win the FA Cup as well as finishing comfortably ahead of the chasing pack in the Champions League spot again. More top signings followed those successes, with Alexis being the most notable, and despite a horrific injury crisis in the first half of 2014/15, third place in the League and another FA Cup triumph suggested that whatever assurances were given to Theo back in January 2013 about the direction of the club, they were very much on the money.

The irony of course, is that since the club signed Mesut Ozil, Theo has been almost permanently injured, and so we have yet to really see the full flowering of a relationship that I believe could become one of the most potent and formidable in the history of the game. Walcott possesses electrifying pace, a fine footballing brain and the predatory instincts of a natural born goal scorer. He is articulate and well-mannered, but also ultra-competitive. He is also appropriately ambitious and has it within him to become a legend for both club and country. His career thus far has been interrupted by a whole series of niggling injuries, and at times he has seemed just a little bit frail. However, after suffering what could have been a career-ending cruciate ligamentinjury in the Third Round FA Cup defeat of Spurs back in January 2014, he has shown admirable fortitude in not only fighting his way back to full fitness, but also returning noticeably more solid and robust.There is a bit of bulk about him now, a real physical presence. All credit to him, but also the medical team and the manager for resisting the temptation to bring him back too soon.  It seemed to me entirely fitting that he should have scored the opening goal in the 2015 Final, and I hope he felt it just reward for his patience and fortitude.

So when people talk about all the new strikers we might buy, I just feel glad that we have on our books someone who has already scored over 50 goals for the Club, is a proven International and is still only 26. In the few games he has played with Ozil, Alexis, Cazorla and Ramsey he has shown signs that he could add quite significantly to that tally. Indeed, I would not dissuade anyone from having a few pennies on him ending the season as the league’s leading goal scorer, as long, of course, that he continues to play for The Arsenal. I like to think he will, for I believe his best years are yet to come, and that he is, in many ways, the vital cog in our attacking wheel.  I also believe that it was his decision to stay three years ago that reminded everyone that although a few rats may have left, the Arsenal ship was far from sinking. I suspect the manager is more than aware of all of that, and that he has a special regard for him. After all, he did pay more than Five Million to Southampton when Theo was was only 17, a not inconsiderable fee back in 2006. While it would be fanciful to claim that Walcott plays Potter to Wenger’s Dumbledore, I cannot help but think of him as the boy who stayed. After all, I am often told that Arsene wears a magic hat….

44 comments on “Theo ! Theo ! Theo !

  1. Wonderful stuff Tim. A timely reminder of when expert bloggers told us unequivocally that Theo was gone. It was a foregone conclusion, our squad was unravelling all our best players were leaving once again.
    Of course as you rightly say that proved entirely false and not one of them has ever apologised. In fact I remember that when Theo signed it felt like a shift. Proof positive that Arsene could keep players if he really wanted to. No one could have predicted Van Persie having two good seasons on the trot – it had never happened before and so cashing in on him made absolute sense. It was a ridiculous stroke of unbelievable fortune for SAF that he wasn’t crocked in his first outing at United and one nobody could have foreseen.
    But Theo, Theo was worth keeping. He had a future with us and had our and his luck not been as bad as Man United’s was good he could easily have been the difference for us.
    I hope he stays and scores and scores and scores. If he doesn’t I suspect Arsene will transform Wellbeck into something outrageous.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. great article and spot on.
    i said yesterday Theos signature could be the most important one we get between now and the start of the season and I think his intelligence means he will never let his agents rush into any contract compleation. He seems very patient and waits to get everything right but I believe he is very happy at ARSENAL and also he believes were nearly there

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A delightful piece Tim. I admit my patience with Theo was tested to breaking point in the Winter of 2012 with the shenanigans surrounding the new contract and the arrival of Team Walcott on the scene. By that stage in his career my view was, and remains, the club had carried the player season in and season out through his various injuries and requirements for operations on this shoulder, then that shoulder etc. Was he robust enough to play football at the top level ? As you say the doubts were there. The claims he made about wanting to play as a central striker were far fetched. In the six years at the club to the Autumn of 2012 he had barely managed to master playing on the wing.

    For Theo therefore at that point in his career , via his TEAM, to express a willingness to play elsewhere and join another club struck me as most unsatisfactory. I am not so naive as to expect any player and his advisers to fail to argue their case and negotiate hard, but keep your f******* trap shut about it. Don’t parade it through the media in an attempt to do ……………err … what exactly ? Were his TEAM slyly on the phone to other clubs ? We shall never know.

    My suspicion was that Theo was at the Ems on January 31st 2013 was as much to do with a lack of genuine interest from any clubs as Damascene revelation in his commitment to AFC.

    Having signed ‘da ting’ however I also must admit that since he has performed far better, and finally shown that he is ( on most though not all occasions) and can certainly become the player that his talent demands. My irritation is settled.

    A run of games, week in week out during this Autumn, uninjured and performing well against the Citeh’s and the Chelsea’s and at WHL is the next stage in his Arsenal career. I would be only too delighted if, probably for the first time in his career, Theo complained about fatigue and having to play too many games.

    I do not really care if he plays on the wing or as central striker, as long as he plays.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks Tim, good article on what will become an ever-pressing issue for as long as a new contract remains unsigned.

    My tuppence worth is simply this: if Theo was currently elsewhere and stalling on a contract renewal, he would be being held up as THE answer to all our striker questions.

    His pace alone forces ALL teams to set themselves up as if they are facing Henry in all his pomp. Deep lying defences is one symptom of this but further ‘proof’ of this lies in the safe expectation of a wave of opposition attacks from the moment Theo is substituted off the field in any game.

    The exact scale of Theo’s enormous future potential, harnessed to Ozil the Great Provider, is hard to calculate. At some point, teams will set themselves up to try to mark him out of the game which instantly frees up space and time for a plethora of striking talent to poach the opportunities that will inevitably open up as a result of such optimistic practices.

    There has been much commentary and the odd blog or two in recent days that attempt to evaluate Theo’s contribution to the side using, largely, stats alone. Of course, the above two points are not really possible to quantify and they provide a singular warning to any observer tempted to reduce the beautiful game to binary.

    The downside to Theo is his unenviable injury record which, whilst not exactly Diabyesque, will always be a cause for concern even though, unlike Abou, his problems aren’t believed to stem from a single injury or condition.

    So this is where the continuing development of Danny Welbeck comes into play. Already a cultured, Rolls Royce of a player, his best years are all ahead of him and under AW I have little doubt he will come very good indeed. Precisely when is moot.

    The problem for Arsene, if there is one, is that he is clearly building for the present and now has the funds, the imperative and the urgency to do so. Whilst we have no idea of the actual facts, if Theo is demanding a stratospheric contract lasting many moons then Arsene may feel he has a problem. If Theo gets injured and Danny isn’t yet up to speed, is Giroud likely to be sufficient to get us through a season in which pretty much every game is routinely described as a ‘must win’?

    Personally I feel Olivier has the talent to deliver over a season with his great ability to play in every attacking midfielder we care to field. But could he do it for every game between August and May?

    My gut feeling is Arsene would prefer to stick with what we have but Theo’s contract is the grit in the ointment and its resolution may yet surprise us all.

    If Arsene plays hardball and brings in a new world class striker it wouldn’t necessarily mean so long, Theo. But it would improve the club’s negotiating hand considerably and with all manner of clubs desperate for striking talent, Theo would need to give some thought to staying to win things or moving on to earn more, and to earn more for longer.

    Tricky, for all parties.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Can I say wonderful too?
    Interesting timing given the nonsensical gibberish elsewhere.

    I don’t think he’s got any intention of leaving a club. Especially when we’ve seen the high praise for AFC from mature players like Debuchy and Arteta. Of course he has a team of people working for him who all very hungry. But that is football. Since before I was born. He’s much more honest about it all then many others. I just saw that AOC has his own website (yup, no doubt suggested by the agent of the hour, Sterling’s now infamous agent) and I was too scared to have a look.

    Interestingly both players’ parents have played a big role in their careers etc. and perhaps they have been more important then the agents.

    Random information/stat for the day:
    When ‘ektor chose to become a cockney he moved his whole family over (eventually, I think, could be wrong) and that is interesting.

    We have seen a glimpse of Walcott’s potential with his newer teammates.
    Perhaps the most important or one of the most important goals of recent times was the Özil goal – Scored by Ölivier Giröud a flick at the near post to beat Loris and humiliate the onlooking Levy following the classic trademark Theö Walcött assist (copyright was made during RVPs last season with the club), and we’ve been denied that sight for too damn long! Especially as he’s been more focused on scoring since his return. Oh my days, what a day that was. Bedlam. What a goal too.
    A goal scored by Özil’s new teammates to serenade his arrival at the club. The AFC players went into that game knowing Özil was coming, they went into that game to impress, and they did! In the process they dismantled Levy’s shiny new squad built from £100M of tat. Incredible when you think about. Incredible to think some people chose to believe that Paulinh, Soldado or Capoue* were better footballers the those at AFC. I guess some people just like to do as they are told. There’ll never be another transfer like it.

    Capoue was much liked by the Experts for his stats. There’s a reason these bloggers don’t work for AFCs in house data analytics team…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Walcott is a big fan of the lesser Ronaldo, has copied his finishing technique (e.g. The goal for England at the Euro’s etc.), no one will be more keen to play with Ronaldo’s old foil then Walcott himself. I can’t wait. Those diagonals we have already seen along with Alexis…for those of us love to see speed up top, it doesn’t get any better. Really hope he signs da ting!


  7. fins, imagine a breakout from say an opposition corner with Theo, Hector, Alexis and Ozil leading the charge. Speed up top? Blimey.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. E.g.:
    Against Brum both Alexis and Walcott made duelling diagonal runs, multiple runs in one attack, waiting for the half-chance and when it eventually came Boyd was too fixated on the more hyped up player Alexis and left Walcott with enough space to welly that ball into the roof of the net. Great goal.

    And he returned the complement in the final. Walcott running on to Özil’s pass, a flowing move from the back (BFG of course), this time the Villa defenders weren’t thinking “Theo who?” but “that’s the same player who scored a hat trick last week”, and Alexis found himself with enough space to find the shot.

    And in The Lump, “the big man with a good touch”, and surely that must count as a healthy trio of goalscoring forwards in anyone’s book?


  9. < Add in The Lump…


  10. Fins

    You must of seen one of Olly’s exquisite back heel flicks, surely?


  11. I am now an expert on Benzema, having watched a 7 minute Youtube compilation. It looks to me that he is a slightly better all-round player than Giroud, but less of a natural goalscorer. I think we have enough all-round players so if I was left in charge of the rest of the window I would keep things as they are up front, as long as Theo stays – and as long as Welbeck is likely to be back to full fitness soon.

    I think more than anything I want Welbeck to progress into an all-time great, partly because I have always liked him as a player, but mainly because I want a perpetual reminder over the next 8 seasons to all who follow and all who present football that the answers do not always lie elsewhere and that home grown is sometimes best. That is the philosophy I admire, and I can do without the ponderous pissed pomposity of the Licensed Victuallers Graduate.


  12. DC
    Like this?

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Hello.

    Another stupendous article. You spoil me.
    As always, the comments are so good, I don’t have anything worthy to add, but I can at least confirm my desire for Theo to stay. I don’t care if Benzema comes cos for all that’s talked about him, I don’t know him, and on the few occasions I’ve watched him live, he’s maybe had an off day or simply not been fed (the ball).

    Nope, I dream of Danny and Chuba along with Serge (jet-aim) backing up Feo, Oli,Ox and Lexis. I wanna see other teams realise that the Chaos of Sanogo is his ability to tear your team apart.

    When Hector’s on the bench I want him brought on as left winger. Let’s see how ya Ivanobitchs, Johnson’s and Neville types deal with that!

    PG, thanks for clarification yesterday. Taylor’s still total yuk. Forever backward.

    Fabregazprom according to BBC:

    Liked by 1 person

  14. back heeled flicks?
    You mean when he copied Cazorla, in the same game! The cheeky blighter. That was something special.
    He’s scored quite a few amazing goals agains the hammers.

    There was his Bergamp moment following the long raking cross field pass from Tommy V.
    The team goal scored last season has flooded Youtube and made it too hard to find the back heeled flick goal. .

    And he’s scored some flicks with his head too.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Did I forget the back heel to ramsey in the FA Cup final? Nope!
    He didn’t score from that one, i was just reflecting on the variety of his finishing.


  16. Never mind if DC likes it, I do, fins.

    Does Mr Benzema score beauty-uber-touch goals like that?


  17. if ektor wanted to be a cockney he would have played for the ammers not us (cockneys are from east london not north)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Norrrf or Sarf, we are all Lundanars.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Estuary English innit?


  20. I thought about writing “mockey” instead but that’d be an insult to poor old Ektor.


  21. The real Walford is in N16, in our hype-real world that now counts as East London.


  22. There’s sections West Of the capital that sound kinda bow bells, like Brentford.
    Mind you, when you get to Twford, Reading (5-7), (and the resistance of a thorough kicking in the semi’s), they sound like frigging Wurzels.
    (Sorry Berkshire peeps, but you do. I acknowledge many of ya have changed to the aforementioned “Estuary English”, but it ain’t native to your demograph, teehee).


  23. Lauren and Bacary must be turning in their respective retirements. Dixon was always a fake. He, like Clarkson come from oop Norf and are both adept at hiding their regionals.


  24. A masterpiece Tim

    I’m getting back into the football mindset…..

    Hey Rantetta, if you haven’t already tuned into Steww’s radio show then give a whirl and you will realise that he ain’t far off a ‘frigging wurzel”:


    Liked by 4 people

  25. Says a lot about some of the fanbase, who are revelling in the very dubious rumours of Flamini and Szczesny leaving the club.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Ta Geo py

    I found Steww’s 21st July offering. The recording started with:
    “and teenagers bedrooms ahead of Prince Charles’s arrival”
    For a moment I thought I’d better not listen, for fear of getting a visit from operation yewtree, but it turned out to be the end of the news, apparently.

    Anyway,matey first three tunes were… Tunes! Culminating in a scratched up version of Toots – Rastaman. How does he even know that stuff. He ain’t old enough, and doesn’t Steww have some connection to Wales (or was that his hols, or Granddad)?

    I’ll return to listen later. Lord knows I haven’t enough bloomin distraction.

    But thanks. (Nah, Steww’s accent isn’t all that otherly. Maybe he disguises it for the broadcasts, but get him in a pub and you’ll get the full Combine Harvester. Hoho).


  27. ‘Frank & Mel’s Guide to London’ could’ve been a best seller.


  28. Haha. It only took me 2 hours to work out what “Licensed Victuallers Graduate.” means.
    Good post, FH.


  29. Ahem. I can hear you , you know.


  30. Great article and comments. I also think that Theo must be signed. With the players we have if we can stay healthy we can take all comers. Exciting times ahead!


  31. The articles seem to be coming at a great rate. It means that we can continue to ignore those poor souls, who complain, and complain, and complain.

    Young Theo was given his chance by the former tax evader, who explained that Theo was a million miles was Henry, of blessed memory and currently in a quandry about 4 unknown players.

    The elder Redknapp did say, that Theo could run over a puddle and not make a splash.

    Looking at my forensic study of a certain blog at that time.

    It would seem on the back-up newspaper cuttings I have, that Theo was full of himself. As at the 28th November 2012, Theo was the Arsenal leading scorer at that moment in time.

    He is quoted as saying ….
    “Those are the sort of positions that this season and, in the last few seasons, I have been quite deadly in,” Walcott said. “When given a little sniff I am able to take it now. The goals show that. I think I scored 11 last season and 13 the year before. Not just that, but my general play as well. The assists are coming now, which is fantastic – and I am enjoying my football.”

    At the time, a number were ponitificating on the fact that Wenger, was not playing Walcott because of the ‘da ting’.

    It is easy to find out, who Team Walcott is!

    At that time there were the changes in contracts, as in – an Arsenal spokesman said: “Each player has an individual contract which contains elements of performance-related payments, which are linked to a player’s individual contribution and also the Club’s progress in both domestic and European competitions. This is normal practice across football clubs.”

    Is Mr Wenger’s assessment of the number of goals and assists, the same as Team Walcott’s?

    I am clueless!


  32. theo should sign da thing… this is not the season for any high / middle level player to leave excpet maybe on loan…

    Maybe Campbell… ten wellington and gnabry and zelalen on loan.. likely WS1 also on loan… the rest should stay… no benzema please continuity is better than new additions at this stage


  33. Excellent piece by Tim. As long as Theo’s new contract is unsettled there will be countless blogs about his worth to the Arsenal. Unlike this post, those who are dedicated to preying on their reader’s emotions have resorted to hype and sensationalism. Fact is Theo has his strengths and weaknesses like any other player even Messi. No need to over emphasize either in a dishonest attempt to either inflate or diminish his value. Football is a team game. There are countless teams in the past where the different attributes of players are organized and directed by the manager into an unbeatable force. I expect no less of Theo at The Arsenal. Our manager has successfully deployed him in the past. I expect no less in the future.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. wenger on the cech transfer

    “The deal happened because of the special relationship that Petr Cech had with Roman Abramovich,” the manager said. “He had a promise from him that he could go out, no matter where, at a certain price, and that’s why it happened.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150722/wenger-keepers-have-a-special-problem#sHEXy8Oq9bWAU7lc.99


  35. JB™ ‏@gunnerpunner 8m8 minutes ago
    Put Chelsea, Real, Barca and Bayern in a league together. Only one team could win. Doesn’t make the other 3 ‘not good enough’.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. So Liverpool are signing Benteke for around about the same sum that AFC payed for Alexis Sanchez.


    In context: AFC signed Sanchez after the 2014 WC where he was one of the star players.
    Benteke was dropped at the WC for Lukaku (perhaps he wasn’t fully fit? Did he score a goal?…)

    It’s an incredible contrast.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Or paid


  38. Michu, Fellaini, Begovic…

    Another one bites the dust


  39. Fins @ 1:38 pm – Michu, Fellaini, Begovic!
    Remember when Arsene showed no ambition by failing to push the boat out and make these signings as a statement of intent. Didn’t,’t some of us say they weren’t better than what we had and certainly not good enough to take us to the next level?


  40. I wonder what Cech knew that made RA so keen to keep him happy?


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