Three reasons why Arsenal must stick with Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud
Owen Fulda takes a look at three reasons why Arsene Wenger should continue to start Theo Walcott up front
1. He’s recapturing his pre-injury form
Theo Walcott’s goal against Stoke City this past weekend was his 11th in his last 11 Premier League starts. There’s no denying he could, and realistically should have added to that with the chances he spurned, but his first touch control of Mesut Ozil’s 70-yard pass was nothing short of exquisite. According to the statisticians at Opta, Walcott has missed the most clear-cut chances of any player this season with six and Olivier Giroud is close behind on five. With stats like these it’s fairly obvious why Arsenal supporters were clamouring for Arsene Wenger to sign a clinical finisher this summer. When Walcott damaged his knee ligaments in January 2013 he was in the most potent goal-scoring form of his Arsenal career. Now, 18 months later he finally looks injury free, and while it’s not ideal that he’s missing chances, at least – as the cliche goes – he’s getting in the right places to miss them. Wenger revealed it was the 26-year-old’s pace and movement which got him the nod over Giroud against Stoke. With a chance to heap more misery on a struggling Chelsea side on Saturday, Walcott will be hoping he’s done enough to repay his manager’s faith.
2. Giroud is a good weapon to bring off the bench
It can work both ways. Arsenal have the option of starting Walcott up front and using his pace to tire defenders, before bringing Giroud on to bully them with his strength later in the game. It worked against Stoke on Saturday but to a degree Wenger’s decision will depend the Gunners’ opposition and how they intend to line-up. Giroud is a confidence player who tends to go on goalscoring runs before inevitably missing a few easy chances and withdrawing into his shell. At just under £10m, the Frenchman has been a good signing for Wenger, he’s even outscored Wayne Rooney by nine goals since his arrival in England, but he isn’t the calibre of striker Arsenal supporters have become accustomed to. His link-up play has improved but his acceleration is slow and his finishing still not good enough, especially on his weaker right foot. For the time being I see him coming off the bench to hold the ball up and give the defence a breather when Arsenal find themselves under pressure.
3. Could they play together?
With Aaron Ramsey currently playing well below his best having been shoehorned into the Arsenal team on the right flank, could Wenger be considering giving Walcott some game time out on the flank? It could be worth a try. Although his crossing ability is nothing to write home about, his pace will prevent teams from pushing up and trying to win the ball back in Arsenal’s half. This means opponents will have to drop off, leaving space in midfield which Ozil and Santi Cazorla love to operate in while picking defences apart. Both attackers are starting to play well enough to give their manager the selection headache he wishes for. Considering Danny Welbeck is out until at least Christmas, and the North London side are fighting on four fronts as usual, neither forward will be short of action this season.