What to do with Walcott

The issue with Walcott is that he doesn’t fit the Arsenal mold.  I used to rue this fact because he looked like a bad apple among a prime pick.  Bendtner falls into this same category.  He’s big and gangly and does not play with the pace or panache that the Arsenal have grown accustomed to.  However, both Bendtner and Walcott are effective when played correctly.Now, I don’t know anybody who likes Walcott to start.  He has poor touch, he can’t cross, and he doesn’t get back on defense.  But, I’m not knocking him.  Really, I’m not.  Walcott is a one trick pony, but he has his trick down pat.  Namely, he can make runs down the right that will carve up the most stalwart defenses.  This is invaluable.

A reasonable person might ask why don’t we want him carving up defenses at the beginning of a match?  The answer is simple:  we don’t play that way through most of the match.  We run through Song, Diaby, and Nasri/Fab with the same pass and move strategy that we use in the attacking third.  This is where our technical brilliance is most evident and Walcott’s speed is wasted.  We’ve seen this in past performances.  I like to think of Walcott as a finishing touch.  The starting XI tire out the opposition, pick up some goals, and just when most teams would relent, we throw in Walcott as an impact substitute.

People like impact substitutes.  Personally, I don’t understand what’s wrong with saving Walcott for the hour mark when the other team is tired.  Rather than asking him to pace himself for a whole match, throw him on the wing mid-match and let him run riot.  Look at how effective it was against Barcelona.  His speed lit a fire under our ass and we clawed back for a draw.   Moreover, I think Walcott’s ability to make runs disrupts defenses who figure us out.  As soon as Chelsea or Man Utd  start stemming the tide by clogging the midfield, throw in Walcott and let him race down the right touchline.  He will either create space by pulling defenses to the right or he’ll space to cut left and take a cross-the-box shot.

I think Wenger’s faith in his players is admirable, but it borders on being foolhardy.  Walcott can be a star without being a starter. The sooner that Wenger realizes this, the sooner we’ll allow him to flourish as an impact substitute and save our asses like he did last match.

See you tomorrow!

the pundit

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