Statistically Gareth Bale has been no better than Theo Walcott in this seasons Premier League, so what is it that Walcott lacks as a player?
Theo Walcott is quite simply the Marmite Man of the Premier League! 50% of football fans think he has quality attributes, whilst 50% see him as nothing more than a player who has a decent turn of pace. If you’re an Arsenal fan, you may agree when I say that Theo Walcott strikes me as an incredibly talented player lacking in self-belief. As you will also read later in the article, Walcott compares very similarly to Gareth Bale this season, but with one fundamental difference…
I’d like to initially highlight what I think Walcott does well; the clear strengths of his game. Walcott has lightening pace, which I feel he relies on too much at times. I have no doubt that Walcott’s pace both with and without the ball is a superb attribute to have in what is an increasingly fast paced game. It is difficult to name any players who are quicker than Walcott in the Premier League. He shows maturity on the pitch, perhaps something that has been instilled since his move to Arsenal in 2006. Whilst I do not mind admitting I dislike Arsene Wenger in many ways, his ability to spot and nurture potential in young football players is sensational. Walcott is good in possession of the ball; showing he can confidently pass the ball and maintain possession in keeping with Arsenal’s style of play.
There are a few key aspects to Theo Walcott’s game which if improved would put him right up with the best wide players in the Premier League. Firstly, Walcott’s final pass lets him down; when you consider the number of excellent positions he can get himself into. Walcott is equally happy coming deeper to collect the ball and beat a player, or playing on the shoulder and bursting into space in the channels. What often follows such scenario’s is a poorly placed final pass that results in the goal scoring opportunity being lost. I do believe that this is something Walcott is improving. Two assists in yesterday’s 3-0 victory over West Ham show that he can be composed in the final third when it counts.
Similar to my previous point, Walcott at times seems to lack composure and belief in front of goal. When you consider his pace and ability to craft scoring opportunities, 15 goals in 100 games is not an outstanding record for a player like Walcott. You get the feeling that Walcott is always looking to play somebody else in, instead of adding a ‘selfish’ side to his game; one I feel would drastically improve his success in front of goal.
Whilst we could assess Walcott’s game in a deeper context, the main problem essentially comes down to one thing… Consistency. The 21 year old can at times look unplayable, but can anyone honestly say that this happens anywhere near frequently enough? Walcott will follow an outstanding individual performance with a lackluster and frustrating performance; and I just wish we could see the best of Walcott week in week out. Whilst it may not be completely appropriate to compare Theo Walcott with Gareth Bale, the two players are expected to produce similar things. Both are expected to get chalk on their boots (play in wide positons). Both are expected to beat opposition full-backs and create chances in front of goal for themselves and others. Statistically in the Premier League, you can barely separate each of them this season. Walcott’s six goals are only one shy of Bale’s seven. Simiarly Walcott’s four assists are one better than Bale’s three this season.
However, one startling fact is that Walcott has played 1252 minutes LESS than Gareth Bale in this season’s Premier League. Considering the hype that has been made about Gareth Bale this season, the statistics show Walcott has has had an equally successful season having played an incredible 21 hours less football than Bale!
I do not think Walcott has reached his full potential yet, but I am an advocate of the fact that he could without doubt become the Premier League’s best and most threatening wide-man. I also think that so much is being made of Gareth Bale when he has achieved little more than Theo Walcott in this season’s Premier League. Granted, the hype surrounding Bale has also been based on his performances in the Champions League, but I do not think he is significantly better than Walcott, but simply has more belief in his own ability.
An injury-free Theo Walcott playing on a regular basis is something I cannot wait to see. I believe that Walcott will finish this season with better Premier League statistics than Gareth Bale, despite playing 21 hours less football. One thing is for certain; Southampton have produced and subsequently lost two of the most exciting wingers in the Premier League. Hopefully those who still think Theo Walcott is a waste of space can be persuaded to think otherwise!