Published on Goonersphere
Amidst the maelstrom of transfer rumours, one of the particular gusts of hot air pertained to the interest of West Ham for two of our players.
Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were the players in question, and whilst the actual story was about as truthful as a Time Magazine cover featuring Donal Trump, the reaction on social media was a fascinating look at the barometer of opinion on the attacking pair.
There was a potent mix of shouts to both keep and sell Giroud, with most looking to improve our attack with wholesale changes. There was a fair percentage who could acknowledge the Frenchman’s talents though, and his effectiveness as an alternative option from the bench.
The concensus on Theo Walcott though, was heavily in favour of letting the England man go.
Throughout last season and through to this latest link to his exit, our fanbase have not exactly been impressed with our longest serving player. When pressed, most indicated his poor control, his lack of endeavour in tracking back and his wastefulness as key reasons why he is not a player who improves us.
I disagree though, and have done for some time.
If you give me until the end of this article, I hope to at least show you why Walcott is far more than loose debris we need to shake from the rug at London Colney.
Firstly, Walcott scores goals when he plays.
The first nine games last season saw Theo score five times. with two assists. He then missed one game versus Sunderland through a slight injury, and then played the next seven, scoring three. The winger was then injured for five games, but when he did return, we all expected him to hit the ground running again. It took him another five games to hit the net.
It is his slow starts when his rhythm is disrupted that cost him dearly. With many players able to cover his position, it means there can be no adjustment periods. Every player must perform every week and any dip means a spell on the sidelines.
This is the sole criticism that can be levelled at Walcott. He should be more than acclimatised for returning from injury, but he does take some time to wind up before he begins to hit top gear. Think of him like a car with an awful gearbox but with a fantastic top speed.
The Crystal Palace fiasco then saw him relegated to a bit part role, and no player can produce their best when they are unsure if they will get even the slightest of cameos. Sound like I’m fighting a losing battle?
Stay with me.
19 goals last season. That return is not to be sniffed at. Especially when he was utilised primarily as a wide man and he still bagged three more than his handsome striking counterpart Giroud. What cannot be underestimated is how difficult it is to maintain that elusive sharpness that all goalscorers desire when they are getting splinters in their shorts on the bench.
What about Walcott’s perceived lack of fight and tracking back then?
When placing Walcott, Alexis, The Ox and Raheem Sterling (to add some perception) into a comparison matrix for last season, some surprising numbers popped up.
Well, Theo scored more interceptions than a player famed for his desire and running – Alex Olade-Chamberlain. Walcott also outperformed Raheem Sterling in successful tackles. This is all despite playing less games than both of these players. Interceptions and tackles would not be accrued by sitting on your heels and waiting for possession to come to you. Theo has been working.
Then there is shot percentage. Theo Walcott was equal best with our top scorer Alexis with 58% of all of his shots being on target. As for being wasteful, his percentage of take-ons falls just below The Ox and far above Sterling. His passing percentage is also higher than Alexis’s too.
So, Theo isn’t quite the waste of space people would have you believe. this is not to say the winger is infallible. Far from it, he is still one of the most likely to induce screaming and blood from your eyes through sheer rage. His passing choices are still in question, and he often goes missing.
What is now hopefully clear though, is that Theo is useful. His 19 goals should have been enough to spell that out, but he is a player we could well need next season.
Why? He makes things happen. He may be completely ineffective for 85 minutes, but Walcott can score a goal even when he has appeared to let the game pass him by. There have been many players who do not add much to the game other than goals, but Walcott gets far more criticism than most.
He is a luxury player, but he is also the Ace in the deck that completely rips up the form guide and changes losing hands into winning ones. Theo Walcott is a far better player than most give him credit for, and we should get behind him.
If he stays fit, then he will get goals.