Understanding the development of Theo Walcott – Positioning and technique: Analysis and Discussion

Theo Walcott has been subject to a rollercoaster of criticism and praise in the five years since signing for Arsenal in January 2006. Here we attempt to understand the evolution of his game. Before signing Theo, Arsene Wenger highlighted some of the key attributes of his game which are all running themes in his development as a player – pace, positioning, and decisions:

“I like the timing of his runs, his determined attitude, the fact that he can play in different positions up front and that he is calm in front of goal…The composure he shows in decisive moments doesn’t change, whether it’s in division one or the Premiership – you have that or you don’t have that. He has determination as well as electric pace.”

That Theo’s pace would be his main attribute in striking fear into defences was apparent from his debut for Southampton against Wolves in 2005, and the use of pace was clear in many of his early goals at Southampton. However, positioning is key in bringing the best out of players, and Walcott needed to be placed carefully to allow his game further to become effective at the top level.

Continue reading “Understanding the development of Theo Walcott – Positioning and technique: Analysis and Discussion”

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Theo signs new deal – what can he achieve at Arsenal?

The main news concerning Arsenal this morning is the revelation that Theo Walcott has committed his future to the club by signing a four-year-deal worth £60,000 a week.

Walcott Djourou and Fabregas at Arsenal

This news was expected, but is still very good to hear. Since joining the club back in 2006 from Southampton, Walcott has made a significant impact in Arsenal colours and has firmly established himself in Arsene Wenger’s starting eleven.

In total, he has made 103 appearances for the club and has found the back of the net on 14 occasions. Speaking about signing a new deal, Walcott said that he was ‘absolutely delighted’ to show his loyalty to the Arsenal cause.

The England international went on to say that he is ‘so happy’ at the Emirates because he is working with the ‘best manager in the world’ in Arsene Wenger. Walcott was also very thankful to everyone who had helped him get to ‘this point in my career’.

One of the final points that Walcott made was that he anticipated ‘many successful seasons ahead’ and this is the point I wanted to touch upon today – what can Walcott achieve as a player? Just how good is he?

By the time his contract runs its course in four years time, there is no doubt that Walcott will want to win some trophies with Arsenal. There is only so long he can be an integral part in the ‘potential’ of this team.

In fact, should Walcott start to perform like a world-class player on a more consistent basis, it could lead to some of the other Arsenal youngsters to kick on. Therefore, the team as a whole can become more serious about challenging for major trophies.

So, in my opinion, Walcott is integral to Arsenal’s future. He is one of the most talented youngsters in the team and his rise could coincide with the team’s rise. When he is in the starting eleven and on form, Arsenal are a better team. This could be even more the case in the coming years.

How good is Walcott though? When you compare him with Cristiano Ronaldo, is he at anywhere near the same level? Possibly not. However, he could be as important to Arsenal as Ronaldo is to Manchester United. They are different players, but he can be as influential.

Opposition teams need to fear Walcott every time they play Arsenal. He needs to become the man that they put two players on in an attempt to halt his progress. Then, players such as Andrei Arshavin can run riot elsewhere on the pitch.

There is no doubt that Walcott was disappointing in the two games against Manchester United. This may well be down to his lack of games, but I would still like to have seen more from him.

The next couple of seasons are crucial to Walcott’s future. He needs to show just how good he is on a more consistent basis. He needs to be in contention for the PFA Players Player of the year every season and he needs to help Arsenal progress as a team to win more trophies.

There is plenty of pressure on Walcott’s shoulders, but he can handle it. Show us what you’ve got Theo. You are the future of Arsenal Football Club.

By Thomas Rooney

Arsenal 3 – 0 Villarreal (4 – 1 agg.) Through to the semis!

Arsenal 3 – 0 Villarreal: Walcott 10, Adebayor 60, Van Persie 69 pen. Highlights from Arsenalist.com

I’ve just returned from a glorious Arsenal win against Villarreal. Three goals, and it could have been a lot more the way we were playing!

Image courtesy of wonker

Walcott’s goal after 10 minutes was sublime, a Cesc backheel fooled the defence and Walcott lobbed the onrushing Lopez. I thought it was going out until I saw the back of the net ripple.

Wenger on Walcott:

“We know he can finish but now he is transferring that to the games. His level of confidence has gone up”

The game progressed well and we passed it around nicely. Defensively Toure and Silvestre looked solid in the centre. Gibbs looked alright, although he wasn’t seriously tested, and Eboue did well. In midfield Song was solid, as were the attacking Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott.

We were first to every ball and RVP was back to his best, battling to win the ball and laying it off for Adebayor – his amazing pass set Ade up for his 9th CL goal in as many games.

The final goal was from a penalty, which at the time I thought looked like a foul on Walcott, but seeing the TV replays it seems there wasn’t contact – Theo tripped on the ball. In any case the goal was deserved, and Van Persie put it away – Adebayor and Eboue got him to do their little dance cameo in celebration.

The atmosphere was very good, and it was nice to hear Robert Pires get a standing ovation several times during the match, and at the end of the game, this was his goodbye to the Arsenal fans.

We now face Man Utd in the Semi’s after their 1-0 win over Porto in Portugal from Ronaldo’s 40 yard strike. Wenger commented:

“I would not like speculate on any weakness of Man United. They will be strong on the day, but it should encourage us to be at our best”

It’s going to be an interesting run in – we now face Chelsea twice and Man Utd at least three times in League and Cup competitions combined. Our form is excellent – but this is a huge challenge for the Arsenal team. Their chance to prove themselves is now.

Interviews with Theo Walcott and the Arshavins

There are several interesting interviews in the press at the moment, Theo Walcott talks to both the Mail and the Guardian. In addition both Andrey Arshavin and Yulia Arshavin have been giving their impressions on settling in London, as well as Andrey’s relationship with Guus Hiddink.

In the Walcott interview with Daily Mail they go into a lot of detail. Firstly how Theo took Henry’s number 14 shirt without realising it – Nasri had already taken the number 8, and he wanted a lower number:

“I asked Vic what the options were. And he said I could have 23, 19 or 14. Without thinking I said I’d take the 14, because it was the lowest.”

How much he respected Thierry:

“Thierry was great with me and my family. He’d offer me advice, take an interest, but he’d also speak to my dad a lot as well. He was a real captain in that way, giving his time to the young lads coming through.”

The shoulder problem:

“The problem with my shoulders was something I inherited from my dad,’ he says. ‘The left one would pop out and then pop back in — absolute agony — during almost every game last season, so I had surgery to put it right last summer.”

“But in Berlin Scott Parker gave me a bit of a nudge, I slipped on the wet ground and the right one went. It popped out and popped back in like the left one always did. So I kept going. We were playing Germany the next day and I wanted to be involved.”

“Then, though, I went up for this ball and when I was spinning in the air the shoulder dislocated again. And this time it stayed out. The pain was unbelievable.”

He is now stronger and faster than ever – and his goal against Wigan should bring back some shooting confidence which Theo lacks at times.

Theo also gave an interview to the Guardian, where he comments on what it was like coming to Arsenal and his run at Anfield in the Champions League last year.

Andrey Arshavin was interviewed by the Telegraph. He talked about the upcoming games against Chelsea and his relationship with their manager Guus Hiddink:

“Hiddink gave me a lot in my life, not just in my football life,”

“If he had not taken over the Russian team I would not be here in England. He made us all believe we were strong, he gave us so much. I respect him and I wish him good luck – except in two games, the FA Cup and in the championship.”

This shows the professional side to Arshavin, he respects Hiddink – but when we play Chelsea his only ambition is to win, and I believe him.

On settling in England:

“Now I’m in a hotel. Next week I will move. I have to settle. Everything is difficult. For example, to get an agreement to rent a house. Everybody is speaking and telling me things but afterwards, when I see it on paper, it is not what I heard.

“I think the quality of life, especially for people with money, is better in Russia than here. Here there are lots of rules and laws. In Russia, if you have money, you can break the law.” 

“I’m happy to be here in English football – it is the best league in the world, I am happy with my professional life but I am unhappy in everyday life, it is very difficult for me. I don’t understand why people do things, or say things, it is a little bit strange. I am alone for the first time in my life, I never left St Petersburg before.”

We also hear Yulia Arshavin’s views on settling in England. Including denial of the negative comments she allegdly made about London:

“To get started, I actually did not speak anything bad about London. Moreover I liked the city especially after the Russian-speaking tour guide took us round”

She likes the match-day hospitality at Ashburton Grove and she enjoys the atmosphere:

“When Andrey takes the ball the whole stadium is already buzzing. There is a simultaneous cry and you feel a total emotional wave”

So the Arshavins are happy at Arsenal, although England is obviously a bit strange for them – they have always lived in St. Petersburg. I’m sure that they will be more settled. As long as Arshavin keeps playing the way he is at the moment I’m sure he will stay happy!

Wigan 1 – 4 Arsenal Highlights, Arshavin’s Magic!

Wigan Ath 1 – 4 Arsenal: Mido 18, Walcott 61, Silvestre 71, Arshavin 90, Song 90. Highlights at Arsenalist.com.

Arsenal came back from a goal down against Wigan to claim all three points in front of 22000 at the JJB Stadium.

Image courtesy of Paul Holloway

Mido’s early goal gave Wigan the lead, but Walcott equalised after 60 minutes, thanks to Arshavin’s skill in the box. Then Arshavin played a through ball to Fabregas who set up Silvestre to score on the edge of the 6 yard line. 2-1!

Arsenal countered for their 3rd goal – Arshavin picking up a poor clearance on the edge of the box to slot home, and Alex Song of all people dribbled past two Wigan players and into the box before shooting to make it four!

A fantastic result for us – just a pity that Man Utd and Chelsea both scraped wins against Sunderland and Bolton.

Injury Worries

We also lost Djourou to injury which worries me. We are already suffering after losing Gallas and Clichy. Today we ended up with Gibbs and Silvestre playing in defence – as long as we keep winning it isn’t a problem – but defensive instability was the reason we leaked so many goals earlier this season.

Champions League Qualification

Wenger said before the game that the league was the priority for the future, the Champions League and the FA Cup the immediate priority. This victory took us a step closer to Champions League qualification, as well as keeping us on the tails of the top three.

We will miss Arshavin on Wednesday, he showed today how much he has brought to the team, he creates chances and scores goals – but he can still help us in the league and the FA Cup.

Oh and also, Happy St. Totteringham’s Day to you all; Spurs can no longer finish above us in the League, haha.

Arsespeak Man of the Match: Andrey Arshavin

Lineup: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Djourou (Silvestre 35), Gibbs, Walcott (Adebayor 68), Denilson (Van Persie 63), Song , Arshavin, Fabregas, Bendtner.

Arsenal 2-0 Man City, a sign of things to come?

Cesc Fabregas and Adebayor returned triumphantly against Man City, Cesc set Adebayor up for both his goals – and it showed how much we have missed his incisive passing.

Image courtesy of mcaparrotta

The 4-2-3-1 formation really plays to our strengths and allows all of our more attacking midfield players to get forward – yesterday Arshavin, Walcott and Fabregas were all over Man City, whilst Song and and Denilson provide cover.

Another clean sheet was a good step in the right direction – Almunia made some good saves, and the defence looks a lot more alert compared to earlier this season!

The only thing that could worry me is that all of our victories have come against lower teams – but that is good, as these are the teams we dropped points against at the beginning of the season, and we know we can beat the other top 3.

This means that the team has started to raise their game against smaller teams and understand the value of every game. A few months ago we sometimes played like we had won the match before it began – and that cost us points!

So a great result, and with our captain back from injury things are looking up!

How many of Arsenal’s team would make it into Manchester United’s starting eleven?

As much as the end to the current season could be extremely exciting and successful for Arsenal, they are still not quite where they used to be as a club. There was a time, of course, when they were unbeatable. There was a time when it was only the Gunners and Manchester United fighting it out for the league title.

So, what has happened in the last few years which has prevented Arsenal being one of the ‘big two’? For eight seasons in a row, Arsenal finished no lower than second in the Premier League. This was until the last three when their final positions have been 4th, 4th and 3rd.

One way to see just how far away Arsenal are from being Manchester United’s main challengers again could be to see how the individual players compare. How does Arsenal’s full strength team match up to the best team the Champions can put out?

This is something I would like your opinion on, so without too much analysis, let’s take a look at my views:

Edwin Van der Sar v Manuel Almunia – Has to be Van der Sar unfortunately.

Gary Neville v Bakari Sagna – Personally, I’d rather have Sagna in my team.

Patrice Evra v Gael Clichy – For consistency purposes, it has to be Evra.

Rio Ferdinand v William Gallas – This is a close one, but I think the odds would be in favour of Ferdinand.

Nemanja Vidic v Kolo Toure – For similar reasons that Evra won, Vidic is the winner.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Theo Walcott – For what he has achieved in the last couple of years, it’s going to be Ronaldo.Ask me again this time next year though.

Ryan Giggs v Andrei Arshavin – Giggs is still a decent player, but for creativity and variation the Russian wins this one for me.

Michael Carrick v Cesc Fabregas – No competition, Fabregas all the way.

Paul Scholes v Denilson – A number of players could fill this position for Arsenal and all of them will be as good as/better than Scholes at some point, but for now, the former England man has to get the nod.

Wayne Rooney v Robin van Persie – For me, this is the closest one of the lot. In fact, I can’t choose between them. This one is a draw.

Dimitar Berbatov v Emmanuel Adebayor – Neither have been fantastic this season. However, the Manchester United man (and Carlos Tevez) has produced the goods more often.

The end result for this ‘experiment’ is Manchester United 7.5 v 3.5 Arsenal. Whether this means much, I’m not sure. However, it does suggest that Arsenal are just two or three established high quality players short of challenging for the Premier League again.

This could happen in the next couple of years when the likes of Walcott, Clichy and Denilson really kick on as players – you never know. It certainly makes a change from the days of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, or Tony Adams and Ian Wright and co when Arsenal would have been much closer to Manchester United in this type of analysis.

Something to think about isn’t it? Let me know your thoughts.

By Thomas Rooney

Don’t expect signings this window from Arsenal

Every Arsenal fan is expectant of transfer signings this window, Arshavin is the favourite to sign on, and we might get him, but Wenger is keeping a lid on things at the moment, just in case we can’t negotiate a price for him. He commented today:

“We are nowhere at the moment…That means we are not close to signing anybody. We know what we want to do, we are not close to signing today. We are in negotiations, yes, but we want to respect our principles.
“I am very hopeful that something can be done in a few days because we are half-way to the end. So it will be days, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

This basically means don’t get your hopes up because Wenger will happily stick with our current squad if he can’t get the right price. Zenit have been overpricing him, in the summer Barca weren’t able to sign him, and moneybags Tottenham weren’t either, due to Zenit’s overzealous pricing regime. The fact that he is going on strike, and can buy himself out of his contract pretty soon could make the difference this time around, but don’t count on it.

“We want to concentrate on what we are doing and what we have here and how we can improve with the players we have.

“I am not a big fan of the window. I feel one of the aspects to judge a manager is to let him start with a team and let him see how far he goes with that team – or you open completely for the whole season.

“England had the right system because it was open till April and that was quite good. Now it’s cut in two and I’m not a big fan of it.

“We have a few options available, but we are no closer. But I believe we have a strong team and we want to do the maximum with the team we have.

Emphasis is on the “we are no closer” here. Negotiations for Arshavin are stalling at the moment as everyone knows, and Wenger doesn’t like the January window at all, so I wouldn’t be suprised if we don’t sign anyone. Wenger goes on to make a good point:

“We are open and don’t forget we have Rosicky, Fabregas, Walcott, all creative and offensive players who will come back at some stage, and that will be like being in the transfer market.

“Eduardo has recovered very well as well, and like a new signing. He is two to three weeks away.”

So we may see a new face at Arsenal by the 2nd of Feb, but if not we have great players returning from injury. I think if all of them come back earlier than expected then we will have a storng side, but I’m still hoping that we will find a way to sign Arshavin to add some strength to the midfield.

More likely the only new face we will see is DB10 as a coach. He got his qualifications for coaching and he has said that he won’t rule out a return to Arsenal as he ‘loves the club’.

Note: If this post makes you angry you may also enjoy this post.

Arsenal 4 – 4 Tottenham Highlights. How did we draw?

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I returned from watching the North London derby feeling a little deflated, although I have to say it was one of the most exciting Arsenal games I have seen.

There was an electric atmosphere at the Grove, Bentley was abused as you might expect, and there were plenty of goals.

Tottenham scored first, Bentley (who else?) lobbed Almunia from about 40 yards. We couldn’t get the ball down in midfield and we were all over the shop.

The goal provided the usual wake up call, and we pressed back, getting a few good opportunites, with lovely passing moves, Theo and RVP linked up well. Then came our reply on ’37 – Silvestre got a goal from a corner – Gomes got nowhere near the ball, he looked very weak at corners.

We were hoping for a quick start after half time and we got it, RVP was felled and the freekick was swung into the box for Gallas to head in, 2-1 on ’46.

Things were looking up, and we went into cruise control as Ade put Nasri’s stunning chip over the line and made it 3-1.

THIS IS WHERE WE SHOULD HAVE CLOSED THE GAME.

Spurs then went on to get a lucky goal within 3 minutes, Almunia spilled a strong shot from Huddlestone, and Bent picked it up, 3-2 on ’67.

We went back up the other end and scored straight away, Hutton gifted Ade the ball, and he set up RVP for a beautiful goal, everyone went wild, 4-2..

Eboue, Diaby and Song all came on as Theo, RVP and Nasri got a rest. We seemed to relax a little – in the 89th minute Clichy (who was fantastic all night) slipped on the ball, presenting Jenas with an open run on goal, his shot went past Almunia – 4-3.

Now panic set in, and Arsenal looked in disarray, the feeling in the crowd was that we couldn’t hold on, and it was only to true, in stoppage time Modric shot took a deflection off Silvestre, which put it onto the post, it bounced back out perfectly for the onrushing Lennon who easily put it away. The few remaining Spurs fans went mental.

Tonight was very disappointing, there were positives, Denilson had a fantastic second half, and RVP played amazingly, but our defensive mistakes cost us yet again. We were unluck, but all of their goals could have been prevented by more astute defensive work.

Interestingly, two of our goals came from centre backs today – maybe representing how much more of an attacking team we are!

In all, it was an amazing Arsenal performance, but the last 4 minutes where we lost focus cost us 3 points which we thoroughly deserved.

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West Ham 0 – 2 Arsenal, highlights and analysis!

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Arsenal won 2 – 0 today after a fantastic London derby against West Ham. The game was brilliant – fast-paced, and attack minded. I give credit to West Ham for attacking and playing good football. It was end to end stuff.

Click here to view the highlights. Faubert’s own goal, Adebayor’s goal.

We had some great passing moves. Walcott looked dangerous and Van Persie deserved a goal – hitting the post with a great freekick – Rob Green played really well and it took an own goal from Faubert to put us ahead in the 75 minute as Adebayor came off the bench and made an instant impact.

Everyone played fantastically, and the second goal was the icing on the cake!

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