I must say that this season, Theo Walcott has done a bang up job in proving some of his doubters thus far, hasn’t he? He’s improved his overall game, is looking the player we should have seen six years ago and when you read stories like this you can only be pleased that we have a player who has his game face on. He’ll surely get a start against Malta on Saturday at 5pm and if he can continue his reinvention at Wembley, then that’ll be all the better for us.
But I do hope the talking about him stops soon, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see it jinxed. It could happen. We’ve seen it before. It could be loss of form, but perhaps more worryingly, it could also be through injury. I do quite a lot of running and I try to do abdominal exercises a few times a week. When I have any kind of illness though, sometimes it rules out any kind of activity for at least a week. Even a week off of running for somebody who is not a professional athlete can have an impact on my own fitness, but it’s not just that for me, because motivation is also something that can affect me too. I do battle with my belly a bit at times and when you get to a point that you’re happy with yourself, only for a situation to arise that is out of your own control that sets you back, it can impact you.
Theo is in a purple patch at the moment and he’s playing well. This is good and long may it continue. But he – and we as fans – needs to be ready for when the inevitable happens and he suffers some kind of blip. When that happens, having to reboot his training regime like he did at the end of last season according to the article linked above, needs to happen straight away. Straight back on that horse, as the saying goes.
That’s when we’ll find out if his mindshift really has changed. That’s when we’ll know if we’re going to get a 20 goal season from Theo.
I hope we do.
But let’s not be too quick to prophesise a downfall, shall we? After all, we’re seeing him come good right now, which is exactly what we all wanted to see in the summer and last season. And he’s developing his partnerships too, which appear to be working, as he says on the official site.
The headline of the article talks about how he’s working with Alexis (clearly not on diction and grammar, as he says ‘me and Alexis’ rather than ‘Alexis and I’ 😉 ) to forge a better understanding at the top end of the pitch, but I actually think it’s the other relationship he talks about – with Bellerin – which has more significance to Arsenal.
That understanding between full back and wide forward is crucial. It’s a symbiotic relationship that requires equal effort in both directions from both parties. Hector continues to impress both forward and defensively, but that is in no small part due to Walcott, who is tracking runners and ensuring the Spaniard doesn’t become overloaded. I saw it against Burnley at the weekend and against Chelski the week before. It’s when a player from the opposing team – usually a full back – gets beyond the halfway line and hugging the touch line, looks to play in behind. Walcott has been snapping in to tackles right on the line and that affords Hector the ability to find his shape and ensure that a wide forward or striker cannot run in behind. He’s not forced to close down that opponent because Theo is occupying the space, so he can keep his shape.
It also means the defence as a whole can keep their shape. Consider this scenario; Theo isn’t tracking back and a full back goes beyond him, driving down the touch line, with a wide forward also coming in to the corner. Hector closes the space so the full back can’t get a ball in. The wide forward occupies the space Hector was in. Now the Arsenal centre half is being dragged across to ensure that wide forward doesn’t have space, which means we’re giving a lot of room to a striker or a midfielder arriving late.
That scenario shows just how important every cog is in the machine, because with Theo now tracking back, our defence is able to retain its shape on that side.
Let’s also spare a thought from Nacho this season too, because he’s come in for some criticism for being exposed on his flank. That’s because Iwobi does not track back in the way Theo has been doing, so the scenario I mentioned above is free to be executed. Which is why Nacho is being targeted by other teams.
It just goes to show the importance that everyone plays in defending, but it also works in the other direction. The ability for Hector to get in behind full backs is allowing Theo to have defenders dragged about when he has the ball at his feet or is interchanging passes with other players. But not only that, having Hector as another wide forward at times, allows Theo the time and space to come in field, a perfect example of which is shown in the goal against Chelski. So for me, rather than the Alexis partnership blossoming, I want to see more of the Bellerin/Walcott partnership growing and getting better.
That will help Theo, it will help Hector, and it will also help all of our heart rates!
Catch you in the morrow.