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Is Walcott destined to play up front?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 09:22 UK time, Thursday, 8 September 2011

Has the time come for Theo Walcott to be regarded as a striker rather than a winger?

His display during England's win against Bulgaria last Friday was the latest chapter in an increasingly persuasive argument that the 22-year-old has more value given a freer role rather than one which is limited to the right flank.

It is clear where Walcott would prefer to play - and he believes his time at Arsenal has aided his development in taking up a different position.

Theo Walcott scores a goal for Arsenal FC

Walcott played 1,696 Premier League minutes for Arsenal last season. Photo: Getty

Following the Bulgaria game, Walcott, who was signed from Southampton in January 2006, said: "I'm not a natural winger, I was bought as a striker. If you are on the flanks, you have to make the runs anyway. You can't stay quiet on the wings and Arsenal are not the sort of team who will cross it anyway. We try and walk it into the net.

Theo Walcott's Premier League stats from recent seasons.

"I am not demanding anything - I will play anywhere for club and country - but hopefully if I keep on putting it out there with the manager, it will come. I would love it if it happens."

Walcott has drawn criticism in the past for not having a 'football brain', which seemed a particularly harsh assessment, but there are two aspects that seem to suggest that a more central role may be more suited to the speedy forward.

First, when faced with a defender in a one-on-one situation on the wing, Walcott does not appear to have a finely-tuned trick to go past them. Normally, he uses his pace. But if the defender closes the space down before the ball arrives at Walcott's feet, then he finds it hard to beat them. If he receives the ball and the defender is more than five yards away, then he can glide past.

Secondly, and this is down to his own intelligence on where to make runs to receive the ball, the frequency of his shooting and goalscoring has improved.

 

Despite suffering from an ankle injury at a crucial stage last season, he still managed to easily outstrip his previous records at the Emirates, doubling the number of shots from the previous season and trebling his goals tally.

On many occasions, he cut in from the right wing to receive the ball in the inside right channel before steering it past the opposing goalkeeper. And although it comes from the opposite flank, there is something in this movement similar to Thierry Henry - a figure Walcott regarded as a huge influence when the pair were together at Arsenal.

Walcott has also been taken to task for the quality of his final ball. But this is an area which he has worked on, too. In the Premier League last term, he created 23 chances, the same figure as the 2009-10 season, but set up seven goals as opposed to two.

As Walcott has said, the type of passes he has to make at Arsenal aren't often deemed as crosses, adding further weight to the argument. And the arrival of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, also from Southampton, may also encourage Gunners boss Arsene Wenger to give Walcott more licence to roam.

The recent Champions League win over Udinese in Italy, where Walcott was impressive and scored the winner on the night, showed the damage he can do in a variety of positions.

Walcott's passes played and received

 

Let's be clear here. We are not talking of Walcott as an out-and-out striker in the Michael Owen role, more a link forward that can score goals, set them up and use his pace to encourage defenders to drop deep, therefore creating space for others.

Former England captain Alan Shearer believes it is a role which he can perform, given time to develop his goalscoring abilities.

"I think he can play through the middle but first and foremost he has to score more goals to prove he can do that," Shearer said. "Whether you like it or not, when you play through the middle or as a centre forward that is how you are going to be judged.

"I think that will come in time when he gets more experience, when he is playing more regularly and when he's free from injury. But he is a pest and nuisance and, because of his pace on the right, will get in behind defenders. When you've got that, the defence will start to get deeper and you can find those pockets of space in between the lines.

"At this moment in time, there are players that are better suited to that role. But If Walcott keeps playing like he has done for Arsenal and he did for England last Friday, then he will get an opportunity."

Walcott seems to be proving he is a forward with many assets to his game. And the more he operates across the pitch, the more defenders will hate playing against him. Limiting Walcott's role to the right will only make their job easier.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think Walcott is quite a good finisher, but, I don't think he is productive enough in any one area to say he plays in a certain area.

    I just wonder if we might look back in 10 years time and reflect that he never progressed to top quality in any one area.

    In some ways, the sort of verdict I reach when I think of someone like Robbie Keane. (Though obviously with different attributes of course.)

  • Comment number 2.

    very instinctive player, the less to think about the better he plays imo, trouble is though with van persie at arsenal and them having a system with 1 striker will 1st off wenger change his system to play 2 up front and will capello also change his formation just to fit in wallcott?

    agree he need to play across the front line because against liverpool and united(liverpool alot more) he was very innafective stuck on the right, its almost when he realised he cant just kick and run past a player theres no plan b for him, he would be a terror if given a regular free role across the front line

  • Comment number 3.

    I've not thought much of his crossing - which is a bit necessary if you're a winger! - but good point that he doesn't really need to do it at Arsenal.

    I'd like to see him play some games up front, it sounds a more exciting way of using his skills.

  • Comment number 4.

    No Comments

  • Comment number 5.

    good blog

    you only have to look at his goal-scoring record to....oh wait

  • Comment number 6.

    Said it from the first moment I saw him 3 or 4 years ago - this guy will end up as a striker remember Theirry Henry also started as a winger!
    Have to say I'm surprised that Ashley Young doesn't play more in a central role aswell just behind a more conventional centre forward.

  • Comment number 7.

    Think Walcott has realised the days of being 22 and falling back on 'potential' are over. Not saying he won't improve further perhaps but Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo were all miles better at his age.

    I think he is a bad injury away from being a poor Michael Owen. He is a player completely dependent on pace and has not shown he has the brain to adapt in later years like Giggsy did.

    Predict he will be at England and Arsenal untill 25 and plod the rest of his time at Villa, Everton, or Newcastle ...

  • Comment number 8.

    its typical that Southampton are so often overlooked in these analytical posts - Walcott was deployed in this very role before he went to Arsenal and all of our supporters knew he would be wasted on the wings as he was devastating when he had space to run about the park with the ball at his feet drawing out defenders and slipping others into play and then bursting into the open space left behind other defenders afterwards.

    this isnt a sour grapes comment for arsenal taking walcott - its complete frustration at seeing a talent not being utilised properly and people not recognising what he is best at. i doubt oxlade-chamberlain will be used in the right way either (although to be fair he is more versatile and hasnt pinned down a position yet).
    another sale of our Bale - was played at left back by saints but so so often the left winger would have to double up as a defender because Bale roamed forward so well, this was intended and done brilliantly and tottenham have done well to develop on this.

  • Comment number 9.

    Like many Arsenal followers, I've been frustrated by Walcott's lack of progress since joining the club. Premiership defenders have got his number, in marked contrast to Udinese players. It would be interesting to see him regularly played in a free role. God knows England need someone who can breakdown well-organised defence, which is why I much prefer Rooney in a free role behind two orthodox strikers...

    A really good and thought-provoking article - thank you!

  • Comment number 10.

    so in short this post is about 4 years behind what quite a few of us already knew.

  • Comment number 11.

    This is an issue that for his club is more apparent than ever and all Arsenal fans know it. He has much of what Henry had at that age and he has, in my opinion, served his time on the right hand side. We know he is not a Downing/Milner/Young-grade crosser of a ball, but as you point out he has never needed to be that at Arsenal. He plays through balls and some low balls, his higher crosses have always struggled - the rarity in which England utilises such play limits his contribution.

    I also think that Arsenal do 'hit the defensive wall' quite often. The link up play, passing and most (but not all) of the team's movement is good - but there is no penetration behind the back four. If we're not going to cross or chip the ball in (which has not suited us since Wenger came in - not that I would complain) then we need someone to MAKE THE RUNS. That's what Henry used to do - the defences dropped deeper and even if Henry got marked out of the game, we had dangerous players to use the space it created - which was why Pires and Ljungberg used to score so many cutting inside and arriving into the area (or just outside).

    Ironically, in selling Fabregas and Nasri we have arguably disposed of two players who could do more damage in such a play style than many could comprehend! But the trick now is to learn and not force ourselves to flog Walcott as something we ALL know he his not. It's time to put him centrally; he can finish one-on-one very well - which is not an easy thing to teach as far as composure is concerned. Sure his longer-range finishing is not to scratch, but he rarely gets into positions to try such things on the right hand side - at least if he was cutting in from the left he might but he can't even do that.

    Time to put him centrally, time to have some faith in him and set him a challenge. It's also time, from a club perspective, to give other midfielders not only a chance to show what they can do but also to take advantage of the space that he will make by forcing backlines to back-peddle. So often Arsenal grind to halt in a line at 18yrds and try to disguise the obvious and only make goals from such situations from extraordinary quality passing into the box - and that's hard to do for any team, let alone in the EPL. He could be huge and at only 22/23 has so much time to grow - it's so easy to forget how little time he has spent playing in his 'true' position in his twenties.

  • Comment number 12.

    Walcott can probably make a career as a modern 'inside forward' - he doesn't have the artistry to be a world class winger or the prowess to be a traditional centre forward. Whether he's genuinely 'international class' is a bigger issue. As for not having a footballing brain, that's just plain bull. There's no such thing. Its just learning. He started a lot later than most modern day footballers and he has shown much greater 'footballing intelligence' in the last season or so. He'll get there on that front.

  • Comment number 13.

    No.10 - you stole my post ;-). Been saying it for years that he isnt good enough as a winger and should be played up front on the shoulder of the defenders (Stuart pearce knew this, why doesnt Wenger/Capello considering the difference in salaries?!)

    From an England pov, this would also bring out the best in Rooney (see his United form playing with Welbeck/Hernandez).

    Its not really difficult for Capello to notice this...... is it??

  • Comment number 14.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 15.

    Why not play him as an out and out striker? At his peak, Owen's threat was his pace and his finishing. Walcott certainly has the pace, and he considers himself a striker. Why not give him a chance through the middle, playing off the shoulder?

  • Comment number 16.

    #12 dawkins1892

    As for not having a footballing brain, that's just plain bull. There's no such thing.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I disagree, I think there is. It is instinct and intuition. The ability to do something without thinking. It is perhaps one of Rooney's finest assets.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'd love to see Walcott played as a roaming supporting striker. I think he'd work brilliantly in a 4-3-3, maybe alongside Benayoun now that he's at Arsenal, with both of them roaming and switching sides behind RVP, in front of a midfield three of Ramsey, Arteta and Song/Frimpong. That'd be a real threat, much more so than the constant 4-5-1 that everyone knows how to defeat.

    As for England, I think the same would work very well, but I think he'd have to be behind Young and Rooney in the pecking order for that role.

    Walcott has everything in place to become a real top class player, and I really hope he makes it. And hopefully he can get away from having to teach his team how to defend. When Theo Walcott has to explain to your defence what they should be doing, you know you're in trouble.

  • Comment number 18.

    I disagree, I think there is. It is instinct and intuition. The ability to do something without thinking. It is perhaps one of Rooney's finest assets.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I always thought that was Rooney's biggest problem in that he does everything without thinking!

  • Comment number 19.

    Its all very well saying play him down the middle, but as a couple of people have already suggested, that would mean leaving out RVP and thats just not going to happen. Prob best to hope for would be that the front 3 can be a bit more fluid, with gervinho who can play on either wing or up front, the front three could interchnage a bit more; that would cause problems for defenders and allo theo to get in the middle more often

  • Comment number 20.

    I totally agree with this blog. Walcott is an excellent finisher and to get the most from him he needs to be played more centrally..I think the combinations of Walcott & AshleyYoung for England and Oxlade Chamberlain and Walcott for Arsenal/England will be very exciting to watch over the years to come..the key is that all these players can interchange so as we saw in Bulgaria on Friday night Walcott and Young were swapping from the right to the centre to the left effortlessly which is any defenders nightmare especially when you add in the lightning pace all 3 have..

  • Comment number 21.

    #18 TT_Swindlehurst

    Nah, I think Rooney's problem when it comes to thinking is knowing where to be on the pitch at certain times i.e. not chasing a ball all the way back to defence and not dropping into midfield when there is already a midfielder standing there. Oh, and discipline! :-)

  • Comment number 22.

    "you only have to look at his goal-scoring record to....oh wait"

    You seem to have missed the point. He plays ON THE WING and therefore cannot be judged on his goalscoring. If you stuck Drogba out on the right wing I think he'd score less than he does.

    Theo needs to go through the middle. He is not a winger and it's incredibly detrimental to our side (Arsenal) that Wenger insists on playing him there

  • Comment number 23.

    i think the era where walcott's the nation's new pele or henry, is well and trully over. I never rated him as a players and just as i thought failed for the England team. I was also sceptical about Wilshere as well based on the walcott debacle but iv been pleasently surprised! Winger or striker, i doubt he'll succeed, purely cos he doesnt have the mental strength and he quite simply doesnt have the fitness, skill or flair to succeed at international level. He cant even do it at club level! barring the odd match, such as the Udinese one.

    Him, Lampard, Terry, Milner, Barry are all useless at international level and should never be on the first team sheet. Tried tested and failed............

  • Comment number 24.

    For a lad without a footballing brain he played a brilliantly intelligent ball to Young after drifting past 2 defenders against Bulgaria, before Young played a simple pass for Rooney to score.

    He looks a natural finisher to me, he has pace to burn and it's simply infuriating to watch him play on the wings.

    When he reaches the penalty box head on he invariably causes trouble, when he's penned out to the side of the penalty area he shows he's not a natural winger.

    It's time for him to be given the strikers role alongside Van Persie. If the two of them stay fit they could be lethal. There's no way in this world RVP is a lone striker and we simply don't have the quality for 3 up front and now we no longer have to build a team around Fabregas I'd like to see us revert to 4-4-2 of sorts. Wilshere and Ramsey in the middle will be a midfield force to be reckoned with in years to come.

  • Comment number 25.

    #24 Anneeq

    Just to complete your opinion, can you tell us who is tried tested and succeeded at international level?

  • Comment number 26.

    Walcott has a good finish on him when he kicks the ball correctly.
    Compared to Henry, he lacks the vision, foresight and movement when off the ball which most top strikers have in abundance! He would be a great route one striker, where all he has to do is run past and beat a defender to the ball to score. Arsenal don't play that game, come to think of it, the last time a team did that in the Premiership was when Sam Allerdyce was the Blackburn manager.
    I think Walcott is a talent and maybe he should stay in the wing to improve the qualities mentioned above.

    As a winger, he has very little choice but to learn to spot a good pass or cross, think about moving into an advanced scoring position when the ball is not coming to the wing and when he's stuck there without options, he can dance his way out of it, I have yet to see him do any of these things convincingly, which suggests he's not ready!

    Henry could do all of that before he came to Arsenal from Juventus, where he was competing with the like of Amoruso, del Piero, Inzaghi, Fonseca, Esnaider, etc
    All these players were really good, Walcott hasn't had any of that, therefore it will take him slightly longer to get to that standard.

    Personally I think he should remain a winger for a while and by the looks of things, Wenger plans to keep him there with Park Chu Young, Chamakh, Vela*, Bendtner*, Arshavin, more likely to start up front before him! He's at the bottom of the pile!

  • Comment number 27.

    How fickle fans and reporters are.

    just a week or so ago, people were decrying Arsene Wenger and bemoaning another season without a trophy, which they were presenting as the be all and end all.

    Now you suggest he gives someone, for whom the jury is most definately still out in terms of his top level ability, an extended run in a position which is crucial to how a team performs.

    If Mr Wenger gave him this extended run and Walcott doesn't become a top class striker so the team doesn't meet the expectations others have for it, he'd be slaughtered. If he doesn't give him the chance he is accused of wasting a talent. Of course, he could try him there and discover Walcott becomes the next Thierry Henry and be hailed a hero. Given his track record at developing young players I'd suggest Mr Wenger would deploy him there more often if he felt he was up to it, and at this moment in time he doesn't yet seem convinced, and I'd be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt there. With respect to the Southampton supporter who posted earlier - standing out briefly in the Championship leagues is a different proposition to becomong a consistent performer in the Premier league.

    Everyone will have opinions on Theo Walcott, and have differing levels of patience with him, but I do find it depressingly predictable that articles crop up which are inconsistent with stances taken just weeks before, both of which can then be used to criticise a manager, who after all sees the player in a performance environment more than any of us.

  • Comment number 28.

    One of the issues i've always had with certain managers is how they pretty much destroy players..and by that i mean, They see a player, great ability doing well for a club and buy the player based on what he WAS DOING..and then get him to their club and then try destroying him by playing him in a position that doesn't get the best out of him ...and then eventually sell him because he wasnt performing.. Walcott will, and ive said it time and time again, become one of the finest strikers not only in the prem but in europe if allowed to flourish as a STRIKER..a position he can grab with both hands.. his finishing is HENRY-esque.. He is composed in front of goal and can take any defender in the game for pace.. He is being wasted at Arsenal.. As a Liverpool fan, i would be chuffed if we went and got him... Suarez Playing just behind Walcott..what a goal glut that would be...and at 22 he can only improve...

  • Comment number 29.

    I've thought for ages RVP and Theo up front in a 4-4-2 would be deadly, sort it out Arsene!

  • Comment number 30.

    #29~ Me too, Theo is so obviously more suited to a Strikers role than being stuck out on the wing. No defenders can live with his pace and his finishing is actually really good, better than his crossing and final ball, doesn't take a genius to work out he is a striker rather than winger!

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with Chris Waddle on this one, Walcott will never be anything more than a slightly above average player. His speed won't last forever and his over-reliance on pace will probably see his career take a nose-dive soon enough.

    Poor footballing brain indeed.

  • Comment number 32.

    #23~ Rubbish - Walcott has never been given the chance to show how good he can be as a striker!!

    #26~Trouble for Walcott now is the new player Park. He looks very promising, but Walcott being behind Chamakh, Bendtner, Vela?? Gimme a break!!! He is well in front of them for a place up front!!

  • Comment number 33.

    #31~ Lloyd... On whose career are you basing your comment on?? What players who have had blistering pace like Walcott don't last long??? What class players who have this pace have careers which nose dive?? Injuries apart. Walcott's main problem with injury is his shoulder, not one which will affect his pace me thinks!

  • Comment number 34.

    Walcott should play on the left more than the right, in a Thierry Henry striker-cum-show-off-winger role. He alway looks like a fast Sunday League player on the right but devastates on the left.

    Because he cannot cross well his only options are to take on the left back on the inside or run into the right corner, hoping to make space for the right back to cross. On the left side he also has the option of shooting from distance, which is why he is such a handful there, like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg were

  • Comment number 35.

    In addition, Walcott is a very level headed and intelligent lad who keeps himself away from the limelight. He is never seen staggering out of nightclubs in the early hours. He looks after himself and stays behind after training to practice on his own regularly. He will have a good long career on the back of that and, at 22, can only get better every season. Arsenal are lucky to have him, and as a Gooner, it is about time we have some representatives in the England team again. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain will be next. Such a massive shame Frimpong has chosen Ghana!! Can't believe that decision, he is class.

  • Comment number 36.

    I agree that Walcott is not and should be a classic 'winger' in a 4-4-2 formation; his crossing is just not good enough. Plus Arsenal don't play 4-4-2 and so he isn't playing that role every week. Arsenal play 4-3-3 with Gervinho, RVP and Walcott on the right. RVP is very similar to Rooney in that he likes to drop very deep and link up with the midfield. This allows Walcott to drift inside from the right and play in front of RVP.

    I think England could play like Arsenal (and Spain and Barca) with a front 3 of Young, Rooney and Walcott. Young and Walcott are then effectively both wingers and strikers, and Rooney is both a midfielder and a striker. Basically, they would all have a free role and would cause defences all sorts of problems, like the 3rd goal against Bulgaria.

    My point is that Walcott is not a winger in a 4-4-2, but more of a right forward in a 4-3-3. He could be a striker in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 but he's not been played like that before and doesn't play like that for Arsenal so it seems silly to play him like that for England. If England want to play 4-4-2 then I don't think Walcott should play. They have much better 'wingers' in Young, Johnson and Downing.

    (I'm an Arsenal fan by the way.)

  • Comment number 37.

    I dont mean this as a dig or im not being a WUM but maybe Walcott isnt that good.

    Striker or Winger, he just isnt as good as the hype that was made for him. This is no disrespect to him or Arsenal but he just hasnt developed into the player a lot of people thought he would be.

    He is small and fast and thats not the 'English way' he was stuck on the wing becuase of this all the time countries like Spain were going miles ahead of England in terms of ability not just because of their players but because of the tactics the nurturing of players at an early stage.

    If your big and strong your a CB or a striker if your fast amd small your on the wing,

    Walcott has suffered because of this mentality and also because he just isnt as good as a lot of people had hoped for. Still a good player but just not as good as the worlds elite.

    Signori

  • Comment number 38.

    All those who say Walcott has failed he still only 22! The quickest player on the planet most likely so he's always a threat. with good finishing why not play him up top.

    Anneeq -

    who would you have instead of Terry at centre back? Englands best option at the minute, as well as a natural leader too. I would just wanna no, if you could name any english centre back who has been succesfull apart from the 1966 team?? cause if you say Terry has failed i think he's been as succesfull as any other centre back due to not being abe to reach another final of any tournament.

  • Comment number 39.

    It is difficult to judge whether walcott should be played up front. He is definately not a natural winger as his dribbling and close control is appasuling compared with someone like arjen robben. I am really not a fan of walcott as i don't think he looks like a natural footballer, he is more of a sprinter and that is what is really effective to arsenal. Also it is debateable as to whether he can finish, as shown by the blatant miss against udinese in the second leg where he had the goal at his mercy but he hit the ball straight at the keeper. He is lucky that he has his pace because if he didn't then i don't think that he would have made it as a footballer to be honest.

  • Comment number 40.

    @34 Farslayer

    Walcott has shown Thierry Henry-esque finishing from the left, but he is also very good at the low driven finish across the goal from the right. And he's also scored a couple cutting in from right with his left foot. He can finish from both sides, making him more suitable for a freer role.

  • Comment number 41.

    able*

  • Comment number 42.

    Correction to my post 36. He should NOT be a classic 'winger' in a 4-4-2 formation.

  • Comment number 43.

    12 dawkins

    people have footballing brains naturally ie ronaldo9, messi, maradona, zidane, pele dalglish ,giggs, rooney etc that have it, dont really need to be taught much else, show it from a young age and carry it through there career's. whereas others have to learn through the years. it seperates the greats from the average-good that make up the numbers. walcott is in the latter category.

  • Comment number 44.

    31 - Walcott has more than just pace, he's a great finisher too. When you find yourself siding with Chris 'pelanty' Waddle you know you're in trouble!

  • Comment number 45.

    Waddle is right to an extent, just as Hoddle was about Owen not being a natural as opposed to practised finisher.
    Walcott doesn't have Rooney's utterly instinctive footballing brain; he often needs to think about it (mind his pace often affords him that chance).

    I struggle with one of the criticisms of Walcott; namely his final ball. Unusually for a winger/striker he plays with his head up and is always looking to play others in. Previously he may have been too much in awe of the other players and looked for a simple offload, rather than trying to create the opening by himself.

    Watching his home leg goal vs. Udinese where he attacked the box just highlighted what we've always known; maybe a central role following your blog will save me some shouting at the tv.

  • Comment number 46.

    Why not give him a go in the middle of the forward line. He has pace and can score goals. That's all Lineker did and no one complained.

  • Comment number 47.

    He should be used as a striker.

    Watch Henry's goals on you tube.

    That's who Walcott aspires to and so he should.

    A lot of Henry's goals were part of the "Arsenal Relay Squad" (ARS)

    Check Henry's nearly length of the field goal vs Spurs, it was classic !!! My favourite.

    Walcott is capable of those sort of goals too if he was played as a free striker possibly.

    BUt the 4-3-3 does restrict Wenger a touch and I think Arsenal played better with the 4-4-2 which was sort of 4-4-1-1 with Bergkamp behind Henry.

    If Walcot was to play at the top of 4-3-3 then maybe push van Persie to the left wing and whip some left foot crosses in. Maybe play Gervinho on the right with Miyaichi as backup.

    I reckon it would be worth a try. Especially to start with against Swansea.

    Maybe a goal or 3 vs Swansea from Walcott playing as the main striker would spark him into a golden run.

    I think Wenger should give him a crack at it, this weekend.

  • Comment number 48.

    I guess Wenger could switch to the old 4-4-1-1 of the Invincibles

    van Persie could pretend he is Dennis Bergkamp

    and Walcott can pretend he is Thierry Henry

  • Comment number 49.

    Agree with the poster above who said the less time Walcott has to think when in possession of the ball, the better. He should be converted to a "fox in the box" striker immediately to save his career. Otherwise he'l just always be known as Walcott the headless chicken.

  • Comment number 50.

    As a Saints fan I always thought that Theo would end up playingon the shoulder of the last defender.He was played out wide to protect him as a young player.I think he gets a very unfair press, probably on the back of Sven taking him to the World Cup and the fact that he has had more than his fair share of injuries. Wegner and Capello are both knowledgeable football managers the fact that they keep picking him must mean that he has something about him. I think that playing on the wing for Arsenal when Fabregas was there was a bit of a poison challice, everything went through him and great player that he is he tends to play the ball narrow rather than sweeping passes out wide. In my opinion he moved to Arsenal a season too soon, and I think the same may be true of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and also Bale at Tottenham.All products of the academy at Southampton and all who would have benefited from another year being nutured by the staff that had seen them develop from a very young age.

  • Comment number 51.

    #7 Gilo

    "A bad injury away from being from being a poor Michael Owen"? Jees, how poor is that???

  • Comment number 52.

    @6 Theirry Henry started as a Forward he was only pushed to the wing whilst serving his year in the wilderness at Juventus, remember he went to the World Cup in 98 as a forward and scored 3 goals i think.

    Walcott must be frustrated at the lack of opportunity in his favoured position and i think he would have been a fairly accomplished striker had he been deployed in the position when he joined Arsenal.

    With comparing him to Messi, Rooney and Ronaldo, he was never going to be as good as them but they were all given there chances in their natural position. Play Ronaldo and full back from 16-22 then tell me he is the best!

  • Comment number 53.

    I agree with Walcott playing through the middle, as with all the other arguments that he has the potential to be Henry mark 2. I disagree with all the people saying that you have to drop Van Persie if Theo is to play down the middle. Van Persie has literally just said he wants to have more freedom than playing up front on his own, so why can't Arsenal play 4-4-2? Gervinho can play on either wing, as can Benayoun (some may argue he was most effective on the right at West Ham). Arteta is just as comfortable on the left as in the middle, giving Rambo and Wilshere plenty of space in the centre of the park. All the time Arsenal play with 3 in the middle of the park it looks too congested. Walcott's pace and movement will encourage Arsenal to move the ball forward quicker, and give them back their counter attacking game.

  • Comment number 54.

    Sadly not. Hes not strong enough is the first point i would make. a great striker accepts and relishes mixing it with defenders. Walcott doesnt. he just falls over. A striker cant be taught, it comes naturally. It wont come to him now. Hes decent enough player, though unreliable. No one really knows what to make of him or has any confidence in saying what position suits best. Hes good from the bench charging at tired defenders but even then he has no consistent end product.

  • Comment number 55.

    Add to my previous comment, similarities between both Walcott = Henry and RVP = Bergkamp, Song = Gilberto. Just needs some strong centre backs of the Campbell/Toure mould again.

  • Comment number 56.

    BBC blogs seem to be "what shall we have a natter about today then?" Totally pointless, like Walcott

  • Comment number 57.

    PS They say pace is the thing in the Premier League. In my view Walcott is too pre occupied with it. He needs to be coached and told to slow down actually! Its the pre occupation with blasting forward that affects his first touch and final ball. He thinks it expected of him. It isnt. Product is. It might also prevent the re occurig catalogue of injuries. This was advice that was given to a young Bobby Charlton before he came in from the wing to be come a World class inside forward, so maybe it befits Walcott too.

  • Comment number 58.

    Walcott is just one of the many young English players that it completely dependent upon physical rather than technical attributes.

    There is a whole generation of players, Walcott, Lennon, Micah Richards, Onohua and many more besides that rely almost exclusively upon dominating an opponent physically. Why bother to train yourself technically when you can just ghost past players with pure speed and/or power? The onus put upon the need to be exceptionally quick or strong to make it in the English game is one of the many reasons why our national game is taking backwards strides at an international level. The players we are producing simply arent good enough as a consequence.

    Traditionally we've had many a player down the years that was gifted technically, more so than the majority of their english piers, but due to a lack of speed or power, even height in some cases, they are over looked for the Walcott's of this world. Our pathological desire to see players "showing passion" and sprinting around like lunatics in the "British Style" has resulted in us producing a conveyor belt of players that 10-20yrs ago would have been more suited to playing rugby or taking part in athletics. But now, depsite no techincal prowess whatsoever, they shoulder the collective burden of an expectant footballing nation.

    Theo is just one example, here is why:

    Walcott is a poor winger. He has no final ball, none whatsoever, unless he is at the bi-line and there is a 5yrd pass on. He can't cross, he can't hit a long range pass, his touch is woeful at times, he has no plan b if his kick and rush style doesn't get him past a defender, his finishing is wayward the majority of times and he gets shoved off the ball far too easily for my liking.

    So why not move him upfront then? Well for one, when would he play? At international level there should be no way, barring injury or suspension, that he could oust Rooney. Darren Bent is prolific at club level and has recently shown that he can score goals for England too, in other words... relatively tried and trusted. Why should Walcott get in ahead of him with no defnining characteristics save his pace?

    Surely he should also be playing up top for Arsenal too then? Well not unless he suddenly becomes a better finisher with more technique than Van Persie he wont. Arsene hasn't adapted his formation depsite losing arguably the two most potent attacking players in the squad, why then would he adapt to accomodate Walcott's pining for more time up top?

    Moving to Arsenal at such a young age was a massive error on his part. Had he stayed at Southampton he would have built the necessary experience of playing up front. He would have scored for fun in that league but instead chose to rot on the Arsenal subs bench or to be played out of his preferred position.

    Theo Walcott is a player that has lived off the hype of being "that quick kid from southampton" ever since he was 17, he scored a hattrick against Croatia that any competent goalkeeper could have prevented. Aside from the aforementioned he has done absolutely nothing, shown absolutely nothing and will continue to do nothing in his career until he moves to a club that needs a quick, unproven and brittle striker.

    Utterly pointless blog.

  • Comment number 59.

    Sorry to completely undermine your article in twenty words or less but:

    "Strikers live or die on instinctive off the ball movement. No chance."

    To expand. There is a constant battle between defender and striker. The striker must push and pull his man, appear, disappaer, put him in jeapoardy, kid him into relaxing, wear him out mentally. This isn't even about scoring goals. It's about creating a game for team mates. Without this effort, a striker who lacks strength, or the ability to score from 30 yards is a complete waste of a shirt.

  • Comment number 60.

    He's a funny one, I think he's a brilliant winger, a rubbish winger, a brilliant finisher, a rubbish finisher! I think what I'm saying is he can be excellent but lack's consistency! If he was as good as he can be sometimes he'd be excellent in either position....Mr T Henry he is not!

  • Comment number 61.

    Theo is a joke, yes he has pace but apart from that he is a mid table player at best. Once again the media hypes up an English player who has potential but in International terms will not get into the Spanish, Italian, German, French, Dutch, Brazil, Argentina...the list goes on!!!

    My point.....Theo is average....accept it

  • Comment number 62.

    58

    Agree with every word. England footballers = thunderthighed lumbering meat headed journeymen. The coaching here since the 40s has created a mould that even todays coaches cant break. Just look at that rabble the other night.

  • Comment number 63.

    comment 58.....spot on!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Is Walcott destined to be a striker? Probably, yes. Is he ready for that role right now in this current team? No, simply because Wenger hasn't had the impetus to really give him a try there.

    He will get his chances this season though when the inevitable injury glut strikes down our other forward players.

    In fact, it may only take a hit to RVP for Walcott to be deployed there a bit more often, since Chamackh has forgotten how to play football and Park will not be expected to lead the line in every game.

  • Comment number 65.

    @58

    Have you heard of a young English lad called Jack Wilshere?

  • Comment number 66.

    Can't believe he was dropped for Milner against the mighty Wales.

    4231 should be the system.

    Bent as the main striker then Walcott, Young and Rooney interchanging at will behind him. Then two midfielders who are careful with the ball and able to get it back (Parker and Wilshire at the moment). Full backs who can defend rather than the hapless Johnson.

    Wenger could easily play a similar system with RVP up top and 3 from Walcott, Arshavin, Banyound Chamberlain behind with 2 from Wilshire, Arteta and Ramsay in behind though that would waste one of his midfielders.

  • Comment number 67.

    with the work rate of Park in the few games I've seen him play, RVP will benefit tremendously if he's paired with park upfront

  • Comment number 68.

    I would like to Oxlade-c on the right, Gervinho on the left and Park,RVP & Theo wander around up front. It wont happen because AW loves the 433 formation, but with our attacking options, I would go with a 325. Sagna,Metre & Verm at the back, Jack & Aaron in the middle and those 5 up front. Its so radical, it might work

  • Comment number 69.

    @58

    "So why not move him upfront then? Well for one, when would he play? At international level there should be no way, barring injury or suspension, that he could oust Rooney. Darren Bent is prolific at club level and has recently shown that he can score goals for England too, in other words... relatively tried and trusted. Why should Walcott get in ahead of him with no defnining characteristics save his pace?"

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Where should I start? Firstly, I think Walcott should play with Rooney and Young in a front 3 with pace, creativity and goals. Secondly, Bent has scored 3 goals, against Wales, Switzerland and Denmark, all away from Wembley. Walcott has scored 3 goals, against Croatia, all away from Wembley. So nothing between Bent and Walcott there. But Bent offers only goals (which he has struggled to get for England anyway), Walcott offers more than that: See 3rd goal against Bulgaria. Finally, Walcott is 5 years younger and only 22 so he has been involved in the current U21 set up and therefore has played with many of the young players who are the future of England football.

    You asked questions, I answered them :)

  • Comment number 70.

    Not that Man Utd or Man City have all the answers of course but what makes you realise that TW might be limited is that neither clube tried to buy a semi-proven England international in TW - MUFC went for Ashley Young and MCFC went for Adam Johnson (hardly proven) and a whole host of imports. Chelsea apparently want Modric, Liverpool bought Jordan Henderson as their young England tyro (along with "big" Andy Carroll) and no one abroad seems to think he's the answer to their needs either - for example Real Madrid bought Ozil.

  • Comment number 71.

    #58 What's that coming over the hill?Is it Nemanja? It is Nemanja!!

    While I agree with what you say to a great extent, I believe that the onus is on the youth coaches in this country who continue to promote the larger, stronger, faster players in search of short-term success.

    The blog is also pointless because anyone associated with Southampton and Arsenal (apart from Wenger) knew that Walcott should be played with a more central position - although not necessarily in a defined CF role.

    However, where my acceptance with your comment ends is your ridiculous criticism of Theo Walcott.

    "Walcott is a poor winger"... erm no he isn't. You obviously don't watch much football. He is by no means a great winger, but to say he is poor is unbelievable. He gets goal/assists and creates goal-scoring opportunities. It has also been highlighted that, when he plays for Arsenal, the need for crossing is limited to when either Chamakh or Bendtner are playing up front (both of whom never make runs into the 6-yard box anyway).

    A poor winger would be playing for a Championship team, and not in the CL year in year out. Do you know more about football than Wenger/Capello? I highly doubt it.

    "he has done absolutely nothing, shown absolutely nothing"

    Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
    Minutes: 988
    Goals: 7
    Minutes per goal: 141.1
    Assists: 6
    Minutes per goals and assists: 76

    Second most effective attacking player in the PL last season (behind RVP). He may not be as good as Young/Johnson/Downing in a wider role (because he never used to play there before his move to Arsenal) but to say he has done nothing....

    I suggest you concentrate your efforts solely on watching United, and don't pass judgement on players from other teams without doing some research.

    My thoughts.

    Well Walcott isn't a winger. That much is obvious. I don't believe that Wenger plans on playing him on the wing for much longer. By this time next season, I am certain that Theo will have made the switch to a role through the centre of the pitch.
    He has pace, he can finish. He will score goals, he will NOT be as prolific as Henry, he will be better than Heskey.

    He is only 22, and while certain players such as Rooney/Messi make a name at a younger age, these players have been playing at a high level since they were very young. Walcott started much later than most professional footballers so he can't be expected to progress at the same age as others.

    I just hope that when Walcott comes good, these people who are currently on his back will hold up their hands and admit they were wrong.

    (I am not an expert, and if I am wrong then I will hold up my hands and admit it).

  • Comment number 72.

    Just a thought here but if his ability at crossing isn't the best, and he would prefer to have a more prominent attacking role, then why not place him on the left of a front three and let him come in from wide onto his right foot and smack one home

  • Comment number 73.

    Walcott and Gareth Bale are very similar to me. Both seem to specialise in picking up the ball, running towards the corner with their head down then passing the ball back to where they've just run from. Maybe playing Walcott through the middle will utilise his talents i.e. his pace better but (as has been debated earlier) Walcott doesn't seem to possess a 'football brain' so to speak. Henry was converted from a winger to a striker but he possessed many quality's (tight ball control, ability to time his run etc) that so far Walcott appears to lack.

  • Comment number 74.

    A good article on a much discussed topic. A young Henry im sure, maybe not as totally rounded, but people seem to forget he's still only 22, and has been in the limelight since 16. Im sure he will be an arsenal great upfront by the age of 24, and will continue to be a success for much of his career. As for his England career, Walcott has been one of the most potent threats to other teams, and impresses more than the likes of Rooney, Bent or Defoe. With Manchester United seeming to be producing a future england squad im sure Walcott will be apart of the future generation and possibly captain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Walcott should play left wing. He played there when he was so impressive for Southampton and has been good for Arsenal when he plays there (limited time in that position though). He's scored against Udinese twice and both goals came from making runs from the left side.

  • Comment number 76.

    The lad has done nothing at Arsenal and has never shown major changes in improvement like players of his age should. This then begs the question, is it more coaching/management at Arsenal as to why he is not progressing?
    Judging by comments in his autobiography however also suggests he is not too bright and as some have eluded too 'doesn't have a football brain' to take in simple instruction.
    Just being quick will never make him a top quality player so perhaps he should seek pastures new and see if others can help him improve!

  • Comment number 77.

    Walcott would be better as a striker - agreed. Not in the class of Henry - there is a modicombe of truth in the kick and rush comments - but I think he's a great finisher and moves well. Some will scoff at this but the player he reminds me most of is Torres.

    On a loosely related point: Hoddle, Merson, Danny Murphy, Joe Cole, Scholes - please feel free to add to this list - all TECHNICALLY GIFTED players either played out of position or completely ignored by England.

  • Comment number 78.

    @ 77 - given that Lille are playing Champions League football this season I do wonder if Joe Cole will get back in an England shirt...after all I'd love to see 2-3 or even 4 players who are England players playing abroad - France, Spain, Germany, Italy even Holland, Russia or even Turkey - so long as they are playing at a good level.

  • Comment number 79.

    He is so average its not true! He has no intelligence, no real skill, no footballing brain (his runs are so predictable) and he has no composure when he has more than 2 seconds to think about what he's going to do. He will be sold within 2 years if he doesn't progress this season. Seriously, us English think that just because someone is quick, then he's a world beater. he is nothing like henry. henry was world class in virtually every area except heading!

  • Comment number 80.

    #71.At 15:17 8th Sep 2011, Nasri_VCC_COYG wrote:

    "He is only 22, and while certain players such as Rooney/Messi make a name at a younger age, these players have been playing at a high level since they were very young. Walcott started much later than most professional footballers so he can't be expected to progress at the same age as others."

    Rooney was 16 at Everton and regular in England set up by 18. He was not at a top club then (pains me as a blue) and moved to Utd after. You comments are ridiculous, he is not even in same planet as Messi/Rooney, wasn't at 16 and is not now. Nothing to do with how late he played for a top side....

  • Comment number 81.

    @52....Henry was a left winger, not a striker as you say. He played as a striker for France when they won the World Cup but that wasnt his usual position. It was Wenger who moved him permanently to striker

  • Comment number 82.

    Bit of a mixed bag of what will happen to theo! Im not sure how he could play as an out and out striker, me might struggle to play on the shoulder of the last defender like hernandez/ owen type of striker, but by all means dont think aresenal have anything to lose by trialling it, he may well be a success.

    IMO he could be the next ashley young, pundits were unsure of him four years ago and now he is playing some class fotball at the highest level at the age of 26., and theo does have the attributes to cut in to score/assist, i think that is what wenger is trying to get out of him!

    Dont think we should write him off just yet, players peak at diff times, ronaldinho was classs in his early twenties but prob not the same player now! Zidane was a far bteter player after france 98 at the age of 24/26? than he was before that world cup.

  • Comment number 83.

    & Walcott will be an absolute beast when he's 25. Not all players can develop as early as Rooney, especially when they are played out of position as a right winger...Playing on the same wing as your dominant foot really limits a player. If you look at most of the worlds top teams their better wingers play on the opposite flank to their dominant foot. i.e. Robben, A. Young, Downing, Robinho, Messi (before he played AMC)....

  • Comment number 84.

    @79

    Henry was very good at heading, he just didn't score many because he took all the corners and free kicks!

  • Comment number 85.

    @81 he was a striker @ Monaco, Juve stuck him on the wing, Arsene took the credit for turning him into a world class striker - conveniently firgetting that a lot of his world class play involved being where? Cutting in from the left. What a player though.

  • Comment number 86.

    Agree that Walcott is more dangerous down the middle, or cutting in especially from the left. But Arsenal do not have the big forward to play off of. RVP already plays this position and he needs the help too, so really you are saying he would be a good back up for van Persie.
    With England it's different, there are more players he can link up with and take over the Defoe role ( when he was playing) but how how this would fit in with Rooney?

  • Comment number 87.

    This is what he should have always been. In his early days he showed the potential. I saw him score wonderful 'Henry' like goals (see his goals against Germany for u21s). Electric pace just some work and he would have been top class by now. However Wenger has ruined him as he has with Arshavin, both far better when they went to Arsenal. For years he has so called 'protected him' and now he is becoming the 60 minute man for club and country. If he was at another club put up front you would see different player fro sure. He is not a winger. it such a shame to see this man ruined. If he hadnt gone to Arsenal i think he would be a better player now. Im sure of that. Im not saying he is an Henry but the potential is definitely there.

  • Comment number 88.

    Playing on the same wing as your dominant foot really limits a player. If you look at most of the worlds top teams their better wingers play on the opposite flank to their dominant foot. i.e. Robben, A. Young, Downing, Robinho, Messi (before he played AMC)....

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Only if they're good enough to use both feet though, otherwise it's easy to defend against a player who 99% of the time will always cut in.. I can't remember many times Walcott has used his left to any great effect.

  • Comment number 89.

    Most importantly,to perform as a withdrawl forward,playing behind Van Persie or any other central striker,one should have ball holding capacity;that means the ability to shield the ball from defenders and dribble,whenever necessary.Walcott lacks these attributes.His final passing also needs huge improvement to be effective in this role.
    So, at this point,he is very much a work in progress.
    At this point,he is well behind established strikers like Rooney,Defoe,etc.

  • Comment number 90.

    I never thought Walcott was a natural winger, he seems to agree. He may be one of those players whose development was stunted by going to the wrong club. At Southampton he played centrally, then he went to Arsenal and has been used as a wide player ever since. What he perhaps needed was to go to a club where he could have continued playing in the same role he was used to at Southampton and just develop his game. Now its probably too late. I suspect there are actually a lot of players out there who would have had more success if they hadn't ended up in a club where they were played out of position on a more or less permanent basis.

  • Comment number 91.

    #73 - I disagree, I think Bale is much more skillful on the ball than Walcott. That aside, I think if Wenger treats Walcott's development the same way he did Henry's and gives him a chance to play through the middle / roam across the front line, Walcott will turn out just fine. After all, that Henry bloke isn't too shabby despite not playing like Messi/Tevez/Rooney et al but still managed to win international tournaments. Sometimes I wonder if Barcelona's style has ruined football for us all because there are very few players, let alone current England players, that could fit into that squad and fulfill the same sort of roles as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

  • Comment number 92.

    No way, I can't believe this article by this BBC correspondent. Walcott has no where near the instinctive qualities required by a top striker - I think all of England's wingers have this problem - lack of composure. He seems to finish very few of the chances he get with one-on-one's with keepers.

  • Comment number 93.

    Theo Walcott, just like Aaron Lenon, is very athletic. However, to play football, you have to look up, see what is there, think, weigh up the options etc. 50% of football is in the head, and the other 50% is in the legs and lungs. Theo has his 100% in his legs and lungs. I am surprised that people in England have been watching Theo for half a decade and still expect him to come good. In south European countries, the coaches make up their minds about whether one has a footballing head during one training session. You either have it or you don't.

  • Comment number 94.

    For once its good to see I'm not in the minority here with the worshipping of him. The Daily Mail with its constant walcott and wilshere daily appearances has driven me mad this year.
    No 73 said that walcott and Bale are similar - where? One is strong, fast, can run at players deliver a great cross and the other one is walcott. Sorry but he hasn't come on at all and he's too lightweight. "cul-de-sac" some people call him as he's always running into dead ends. And I'm not an Henry worshipper at all, but some people are comparing him to him - no chance. Not in a million years. Maybe ian wright - small , not as good as he thinks he is, and good nuisance value.
    And this "reading the game" thing? Fine if you can and are slow - Teddy Sheringham in later life. Fine if you're young and can't but play superb football - Rooney. You either have the skill or not.
    No 82 said he could be the next Ashley Young - that's not really a compliment as the media had walcott way ahead of ashley young who has just suddenly got better!
    As for a striker, let's face it, he can't beat a player or cross the ball so he may as well be. He needs to concentrate more on his football and less on his newspaper talk - a bit like wilshere, another player who needs to impress for more than a month or so.

  • Comment number 95.

    he played on Friday and we looked a good team, Downing replaced him on Tuesday and we missed him massively... leave him to cause havoc unless we find someone better than him to play on the right which we haven't got at the moment... Downing set up the goal on Tuesday but that was all except a few over hit crosses and repeatedly cutting inside and giving the ball to a red shirt.
    From Tuesday it was obvious we need him on the right along with Wilshire in the middle to bring creativity and variety to the attack.

  • Comment number 96.

    Walcott is a sprinter that can occasionally play football.

    I would argue anyone who says that he is something more than that.

  • Comment number 97.

    Not sure how Henry and Walcott are even ebing mentioned in the same sentence!

    One is a genius the other is a small sprinter at best.

    Aaron lennon comparison, yes

    Bale comparison, NO

    Walcott is a poor mans Gronkjaer (spelling)

  • Comment number 98.

    @ Badger

    This thought did cross mind for a bout 1 minute, i am sure Walcott was sitting on the sidelines thinking if he was playing he would do a better job.

    Bit without stating the obvious failings of Walcott as any shape of footballer, i think that he would do ok against weaker sides, but the main problem about England was playing 3 holding midfeilders to nullify the threat of Bale.

    If you want a better winger then look no further than A Johnson. Then we certainly lack striker options up front for England, and since we havent really seen Walcott to much as an out and out striker its unfair to say if he is best at this position or not. But England certainly need more firepower upfront, wait thats two words rolled into one, fire, nope Walcott has none and Power erm.....

    I heard he is quite good at playing fifa 11 though.

  • Comment number 99.

    I think the arrival of big forward Park at Arsenal will change things a lot. With him up front we will have RVP, Walcott, Gervinho ( and Arshavin if he can be bothered to get his boots on) to annoy defences.
    Wishire and Ramsay driving the midfield.
    DM is still a problem, I do not rate Song, he gives the ball away, makes bad tackles and gets caught out of position) and Frimpong is too raw right now.
    The back four and goalie are finally set.

    Time for Wenger to change it about? That's what this blog is about, giving Theo a chance to prove himself, because up to now he has been living on his 'potential' rating.

  • Comment number 100.

    No 73 said that walcott and Bale are similar - where? One is strong, fast, can run at players deliver a great cross and the other one is walcott.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I based it on that Theo Walcott's reputation has largely been built on his England hat-trick against Croatia, form that has rarely been seen since. Bale's reputation seems to be built on two performances against Maicon, performances that from what i've seen haven't been seen since either. I still laugh when I remember the next few days after the second Inter Milan game, the BBC had a blog of 'who is the world's best player - Messi, Ronaldo or Bale' and pricing him at £100 million. Hilarious.

 

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