Player Analysis: Theo Walcott & Lukas Podolski v Newcastle
Welcome to the latest feature on Gooner Talk providing you with in-depth player analysis after each Arsenal game.
It is often ill-advised to devise an analysis when matches take such arbitrary turns as it did at The Grove on Saturday evening. Sometimes it becomes more rational to acquiesce and accept that our Gunners’ side are just too predictably unpredictable.
Luckily, a significant portion of Saturday’s encounter entirely logical. It was mostly during this interval that I was able to piece together a few patterns for our observation:
Walcott walks it
The one and only time I watched Theo live was last winter in a 1-0 win over QPR. For those who don’t know, watching a match live is incomparably different than watching on television.
Television is culpable of (what I call) ‘selective demonstration’, as one is forced to watch wherever the cameras direct your attention. In the stadium, you are able to scan the entire pitch at any given time. This gives you greater insight on a player’s tactical awareness and movement.
That night, Theo latched on to an Aaron Ramsey through ball. The Emirates stood in anticipation as he bore down on Radek Cerny. Theo struck, Theo dragged, Emirates moaned. Yet what I took away from that oddly warm December evening was a kernel of hope. All night I watched as Theo Walcott made undetected run after undetected run. Theo’s movement, an aspect of his game I was previously oblivious to, was world class.
On Saturday, Walcott was at his devastating best when he played off of the last defender’s shoulder. He tip-toed along the imaginary boundary throughout the first half, but was only played in once by Lukas Podolski, with whom he had formed an instant partnership. The rest of his runs can be seen on the corresponding video found at the bottom of this piece.
The rest of Walcott’s play was on and off. He whipped in an inviting cross for Oli Giroud and clipped a divine chip over Krul to complete his hat-trick. But Theo was also wasteful when he twice led an odd-man charge and twice squandered the golden opportunities. He also left a lot to be desired with his back to Tim Krul, as he was often rendered innocuous.
Podolski’s defensive contribution
Lukas Podolski’s defensive input was incredible. In addition to chipping in with an assist and a scrappy goal, the German displayed a tireless work ethic for 80 minutes. Danny Simpson did get up the park, but rarely did he manage an uncontested cross or run.