As we gradually begin to countdown to the kick-off of the 2015/2016 EPL season with the compliment of a fully fit squad to select from (while still expecting few more summer signings), one debate that could be foremost on manager Arsene Wenger’s mind will be if Theo Walcott should be converted into a central striker or allowed to slug it out from the flanks with either of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Sanchez and Ozil would appear to be favoured above the three lions forward and this may limit Walcott’s chances of playtime, and how soon we will have to wait before agitations for a move away from the Emirates becomes resounding once again, could just be imminent.
Walcott’s season last term was plagued by a cruciate knee injury which meant the striker had to wait till the end part of the campaign before he got into the fray. He however, seized the opportunity to once again stake a claim for that central attacking position with his blistering display against West Bromwich Albion grabbing a remarkable hat-trick in the season’s curtain drawer.
It was barely five minutes on the clock when Walcott displaced his marker with a clever run creating space in the box to receive Santi Cazorla’s fine pass from the right before smashing past goalkeeper Myhill.
If that strike highlighted his deft movements and good finishing, his second on the day was all about composure as he pounced on a loosed ball in a crowded area, balanced himself before poking a low finish into the bottom corner.
His third was a perfectly timed run to the far post for an easy tap-in from Cazorla’s cross.
With such intelligent movements, speed, ruthless finishing and poacher’s instincts, games like that against West Brom would lend credence to Walcott’s push for the central attacker’s role.
Manager Arsene Wenger hinted after the game that Walcott may soon get the nod to play as the main man upfront:
“He’s shown he is back in good form. I played him upfront because I believed he can do it. He proved he can do it and in the future, Theo will be a central striker”. Wenger said
On a personal note, I think Walcott cannot match Olivier Giroud’s Superb hold-up play and he also falls short on physicality and aggression - two highly definitive characteristics of top marksmen in the game. However West Brom Manager Tony Pulis believes he would flourish if played in that position:
“I think Walcott is outstanding as a front player. His movement is absolutely first class”. Pulis said after the game.
Walcott’s five goals last season came at a rate of one goal in every 88.2minutes - the best scoring rate of any one in the premier league. Over the previous two seasons he averaged a goal in every 129.9 minutes despite operating mainly from the flanks and in his last injury free season in 2012/2013 he contributed 10 goals and 14 assists in the premier league alone.
It is now only a matter of time before Walcott gets his big chance to play as Arsenal’s main center forward.