AFCB writer Daniel Brookes comments on Theo Walcott in ‘From The Left Wing’…
You have to feel sorry for Theo Walcott sometimes. As an Arsenal fan, I’ve watched him progress over the last three or four years and thought of him simply as a young player who must have a certain amount of quality to be playing first team football for a title-challenging club. A club that he’s been turning out for since the age of 17 no less. Does any one else really think any different of the guy?
Well apparently they do. This weekend Theo netted his first club hat-trick against Blackpool and his reward was a mauling on national television at the hands of every one’s favourite pundit, Alan Hansen, who took time out of his busy ‘being a cock’ schedule to be a cock about Theo.
Hansen’s main problem with Theo was that he ‘was good, but he isn’t the world’s best’, a title that neither Walcott nor any member of the Arsenal staff or support has ever claimed, though that obviously doesn’t matter. Furthermore, Walcott was slammed for displaying instinctive and intuitive brilliance that didn’t quite match his decision making at other times. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that Hansen said of Walcott just before the world cup that ‘he needs to learn to think as fast as he can run.’ – when he is now seemingly criticising him for quite the opposite.
Nobody is getting carried away with his hat-trick against a team who are likely to be the Premier League’s whipping boys this season. Nobody has slapped a 50m price tag on his head, put him forward for player of the year or suggested he is anywhere near the same calibre as Lionel Messi and pals. He’s just our right winger and he netted a hat-trick, hats off to the lad.
Every Arsenal fan knows the weaknesses of Theo’s game, but we are also fully aware that he has a good ten+ years of football ahead of him and he will develop into an even better player. That’s not to say that he isn’t good enough for our first team set-up already – he has a respectable amount of international experience and some high profile Champions League games under his belt, I just think his best is yet to come and that that is an exciting prospect.
The criticism is not even wholly unjustified, but what stands out is the disproportionate amount of abuse Theo seems to get compared to his contemporaries. Hansen, of course, is only one of his detractors, but what I do not understand is how often he bares the brunt of other people’s ‘professional opinion’ after he has just done something quite incredible.
When he was left out of England’s doomed World Cup squad, I think there was an overall feeling here that his omission was warranted. In the friendly matches England played prior to the world cup, the commentators and pundits were approximately 3000% more critical of Theo than any other player on the pitch that I can remember.
It’s literally bewildering, considering Theo was left out in favour of an unfit Shaun Wright-Phillips, who wasn’t even making the first team at City, and James Milner – a player who would still struggle to beat the left back if you lined up with a training cone in that position. Both Wright-Phillips and Milner were utterly obtuse and lumbering in their international matches over the summer, yet the criticism seemed to fall solely on the manager for selecting them, rather than their poor performances directly. Those are two players who have chalked up over 30m in transfer expenses each, by the way, but seemingly still have no extra obligation to perform.
There is no mystical conveyor belt which churns out legendary footballers, but I believe brilliance can be acquired in some cases through experience and confidence. I wonder what people thought of Thierry Henry’s ‘footballing brain’ when he was 21? I also wonder how Walcott will react in the next match when after scoring a hat-trick he switches on the television and sees someone announcing that he did well, but will never be a great player?
Walcott simply offers our attacking line up some real penetration and he always looks committed to the cause. I have high hopes this season if he is no longer afraid to draw fouls, shoot, set-up or leave his marker for dead. As for his faults, I’ve only ever seen him unsuccessful, never lazy. Perhaps he could dodge so much attention if he switched to the opposite wing, maybe took on a more Eastern European nationality and picked and chose the games he turns up for. Until then I’ll applaud his resolve.
There is no reason to scrutinise Walcott more than any other young player, and given the fact that he is more down-to-earth than Newton’s apple, I can’t imagine him ever suffocating on his own pomp and grandeur like Ronaldo. He brings none of this on himself and thus I can only feel sorry for him as he apparently owes England some sort of incredible set-the-world-alight career from here on out. What do you mean he only scored three goals today? We’d best tear him apart.
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