Nov 10

Theo Walcott: Undermined By Our Barcelona Template

Theo Walcott comes from a good family that have provided him with the support network that all excellent young sporting prodigies have required in their development.

Tiger Woods, Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton are supportive parents who have stood shoulder to shoulder with their children, be it on a pitch, court or a green to develop their ability. His father Donald is ex-Royal Air Forces and is currently working as Theo’s personal manager. He has driven hundreds of miles to help his son reach the top, much like Tom Daley’s late father. His mother, Lynn, is a midwife; his Grand-Father on his father’s side is also ex-RAF and was one of the first black Conservative councillors; and his sister, Hollie, is a bodybuilder – which requires continuous focus on training and nutrition. His background around him is of honest and hard working people. He met his stunning girlfriend, Melanie Slade, in Southampton’s West Quay shopping centre when she worked in Claire’s Accessories. She is a physiotherapy student at St George’s Hospital University in London, and was humble enough to turn down a £140,000 personalised Ferrari he had bought for her 21st birthday. The point I am trying to make is that the people in the background of Theo’s career are part of the reason he will continue to improve. They have normal interests and personalities, and will remind him he is lucky to be where is – just like when you play online bingo for money. Having been the victim of a high value Burglary will also have pricked his ego to remind him he is not untouchable (two men were sentenced to 3 years and 9 months, having stolen £40,000 worth of property). Another reminder that he is just a human being will be the numerous injuries he has suffered. Circumstances like an anti-climatic involvement in a World Cup; being the victim of frustrating injuries, bouts of poor form and a strong family have made him a hungry and determined man to succeed.

His genetic god-given asset of sheer pace will mean Walcott can never be completely be ignored on the football pitch. Defenders must prepare for him and limit his space quickly when he receives the ball. His involvement forces tactical adjustments on the line played by the defence, and may alter the ambitions of an attacking fullback so they do not leave space. His fastest time over 100metres is believed to be 10.30 seconds. The second fastest player over that distance at Arsenal is supposedly Ryo Miyaichi, who does it in 10.84 seconds – a huge margin over 100 metres. As Pep Guardiola said, ‘You would need a pistol to stop him.’ Indeed, Walcott’s fastest 40 metre time is 4.72 seconds – 0.10 faster than Henry’s best. José Enrique gave a master class in how to manage him in the game against Liverpool. Enrique challenged him early before he could turn, competed for pace by offering channels for Walcott to run but ensuring he had a few metres advantage, and competed physically. We know Walcott wants the central role that Robin plays, but I am not sure that he has the instinctive technical skill or rugged power to retain possession with his back to goal. He is bigger than he was in previous years, having forced his slender upper body to catch up with his naturally stocky quadriceps through set after set of bodyweight dips, chins and push-ups. However, he is limited by his stature in a way because of the fact he is just not mean enough. Hernandez is the player Walcott needs to try to eliminate the doubts people have on his readiness to lead the line – rougher, more instinctive and more competitive.

In my view, Arsenal often fail to get the most from Walcott at the moment due to tactical reasons. Over elaborate, and time consuming triangles among the central trident of Song-Ramsey-Arteta allow opposition players to comfortably get players behind the ball and fill defensive spaces. At worst, some could say Arsenal use a style that does not suit him. Arsenal follow a ‘Barcelona’ template, based on possession, patience and small attacking midfield playmakers. Manchester United’s game is an altogether different model, directed at stretching opposition midfielders with diagonal passes, exciting wingers and lightening counter attacks. I am a firm believer that Walcott would have greater success in the latter style. He needs to be in a team that allow him to attack at space 12 times a game, not 4 or 5.

Can we get more out of Walcott essentially? Certainly. Away from home, Arsenal have been asking quite a lot from Walcott and putting a great strain on his pace. With the team slipping into a 4-5-1 far more when they are without the ball, it is his role to become the back post striker when the team attack from the left wing. Covering in front of a young Carl Jenkinson, Walcott may have to cover 70 yards in the time Van Persie may only have to cover 30.

I felt sorry for him when I watched Arsenal playing against West Bromwich Albion. I had a clear view from the Upper East Stand and could see that often Walcott was available for an early pass, but would be forced to wait a crucial 8-9 seconds longer than necessary. At United he would have been fired the pass far quicker, rather than have had to wait that time. Why is he not getting the earlier passes that he should be? Possibly Wenger has lost sight of how dangerous he is. A few years ago Arsenal were 2-1 down to Liverpool in a Champions League we would ultimately lose 4-2. In that game Walcott made a scorching drive at their defence to create a goal for Emmanuel Adebayor. I had never seen an assist like that before on such a grand stage by someone so young. It was powerful and fearless. At that point Andy Townsend said ‘Get the ball to Theo Walcott, he can win this.’ Indeed, I felt that even among the talents of Fábregas et al, Walcott was the one player that could win that game – and could win any game that night. If only Arsenal could be less Barcelona and more ‘Real Madrid’, Walcott could produce his best form. Real can do the careful triangles with Ozil, Alonso and Kaka but also fire early balls to Di Maria and Ronaldo to allow them maximum space to hurt fullbacks.

For all Arsenal news, discussion, and tactics follow @Detective82.

Share

Tags:

12 Responses to “Theo Walcott: Undermined By Our Barcelona Template”

  1. kriss says:

    I agree with you, to use theo’s best qualities we should pass him a lot earlier in our build up when he still has the space…not every time of course but more frequent than we do! But that would also requiere van persie, gervinho or/and ramsy to be in the box….

    ReplyReply
  2. Franny says:

    Agree with the article but don’t agree we follow the “barca template”. Pep came and learnt the template from Wenger and so it is actually more an “Arsenal template” or even an “Arsene template”.

    ReplyReply
  3. n1 gooner says:

    Franny why do you say that??? Barca have alway’s had a attacking style and played the 4-3-3 4-5-1 and we only used it after Barca started using it??

    Please tell me more because i would love to know if i was wrong??…I’m not taking the p,i’m just intrigued why you think that??

    ReplyReply
  4. Arran says:

    Totally agree with this article. We often take too long in centre midfield and have players like Ramsey and Arteta who are very simiar and do take their time on the ball. If we had a quick counter attacking style, Walcott and Gervinho would both be exceptional.

    ReplyReply
  5. Ladylike says:

    @Franny: Well said. It’s Arsene’s, not Pep’s. There are Masters, then there are MASTERS. I challenge Pep to do as much with this team as Wenger has, only then, can he earn my respects.

    ReplyReply
  6. @Franny: I agree with you gooner

    ReplyReply
  7. Really enjoyed this. Some interesting points – and to be honest, its difficult to agree on the points you’ve raised.
    I am a firm believer that Theo is a player we have mismanaged over the years and as much as he doesn’t use his best asset to the best of his ability, I don’t think Arsene does.
    For me he’s not a wide player. Theo is a player who seems more comfortable running onto a ball as a pose to with it.
    I think he’d shine through the middle, but he has the daunting task of challenging Van Persie for that role – who lets face it, is probably the best in the country at that role right now. Its working for him and for the team more than it looked at the start of the season.
    The only part I’d debate over is that I actually believe Theo is an instinctive player and performs better when he doesn’t have an option or a decision to make.

    ReplyReply
  8. ruffneckc says:

    I agree with the post. Basically, if you watch how many times Walcott initiates a run in behind and has doesn’t receive the right ball, you begin to see the issue with our slow build up. Walcott has one World Class trait and that is the timing of his runs.

    The one thing he needs to work on more than most is his dribbling and ability to beat his man or change direction quickly.

    The thing to remember about Wenger is that he gives the team the license to be creative and does not dictate to them how to make decisions. That is why Arsenal are dynamic and hard to stop at their best, because they can hurt a team in many ways, not just by through ball to Walcott.

    ReplyReply
  9. Goonerman says:

    Well, early balls are always beneficial but you all seem to overlook that Theo is a ‘head down’ player. So, not as efficient as he should be.

    ReplyReply
  10. marcus says:

    LOL! The notion that Guardiola got his template from Arsenal is hilarious!

    Very good post on Theo.

    ReplyReply
  11. Lukeyy says:

    its not arsenes or peps template, it is johann cruyffs template of the late 80′s early 90′s when he combined total football and tiki taka.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply