Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has urged Theo Walcott to deliver a complete season for the club following a blistering start to 2016-'17.
Walcott joined Arsenal from Southampton in the 2005-'06 season but has had a roller-coaster ride in the red and white jersey so far. There was a lot of promise but he failed to deliver on the kind of expectations he had set. His best season was way back in 2012-'13 when he scored 21 goals and set up 16. Injuries did hamper his cause. But the start of the 2016-'17 season has seen the re-invigorated version of the 27-year old.
Walcott already has more goals in the Premier League this season (eight) compared to his tally (five) in his last 28 appearances, his lowest since 2009-'10. He started in just 15 matches, including one in his last 14 in the 2015-'16 season. Henry believes Walcott needs to be consistent throughout the season.
"Theo (Walcott) has been at the club for 10 seasons now. Ten seasons. For me, it's time for him to deliver a complete season," Henry told Firstpost during a round table interaction organised by Puma in Mumbai.
"He (Walcott) was stopped because of injuries also, a couple of times. But I think it’s only time for him to actually have a good 36, 37 or 38 games where he can be efficient for the club and that would be amazing for Arsenal. Amazing for him, amazing for everyone who’s involved with him," Henry added.
Walcott's positioning has come under the scanner in the past few years. He started off playing on the wings but then expressed his desire to become a striker who could end Arsenal's search for a '20-goal-season striker'. But somehow it didn't work out and he fell out of favour with manager Arsene Wenger. In a bid to reinvent himself, the England international was ready to get back to playing on the wing. Before the start of the season, he faced stiff competition from Aaron Ramsey (if Wenger decided to employ him on the right), Joel Campbell, Danny Welbeck (as and when he comes back from injury), Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, for a slot on the right-wing. But Wenger kept faith in Walcott and the winger has vindicated the boss' decision so far. The move back to the wing seems to have clicked but Henry insists that it's not the positioning, it's the movement that matters.
"I’ve lost count of how many times of wherever he (Walcott) wanted to play, I think he wanted to play on the right and then he wanted to play in the middle and now he wants to be back on the right," Henry told Firstpost during the round-table interaction.
"I think at the end of the day, it’s not about where you want to play. If you’re good and you’re having a good season, then look, he’s sometimes on right, sometimes in the middle, sometimes (Alexis) Sanchez is on the right. Sometimes they switch. Most of the times, he’s on right. It's the creativity and the way you move will create space for you and I think the combo they are having is working well," Henry added.
The difference in Walcott's performance is, however, palpable. Somewhere down the line the pre-season meeting with Wenger and assistant manager Steve Bould has proved to be crucial. He was asked to get tougher physically and mentally. This coupled with the disappointment of the England snub for Euro 2016 acted as catalyst for motivation. The 27-year-old put in grueling sessions with his personal trainer before the season started and his work rate during the Premier League this season – surging forward, tackling, tracking back and defending is a testament of his fitness and hard yards put in in the pre-season.
"I always felt there is character and intelligence in this boy," Wenger said last month.
"What was a big blow for him was not to go to the Euros. He is a guy with a good assessment of his performances and qualities.
"He is 27, a very important age. I said many times at the start of the season that we would see a different Theo Walcott. I could see he made a decision and stuck to it," Wenger added.
What seems to have clicked for Walcott is Wenger's decision to play Sanchez as a lone striker upfront.
"I think, the way they (Arsenal) are playing right now, they are creating a lot of movement upfront, having Sanchez in the middle opens up a lot of space for everybody because he’s moving from that middle position and that’s the reason you’re seeing Mesut Ozil also scoring more goals, Henry said.
"Because of the movement of Sanchez on the right, dropping, going wherever he wants to go from the middle part, you can see Ozil making those runs inside because Sanchez is vacating the space with Theo also making those runs to go for the goal. Theo is also scoring a lot of goals because of that as there’s a natural movement that they are creating. Most of the times, you will see Sanchez giving that ball, because he’s moving, they are getting in, and he’s passing the ball. So it’s just the matter of creativity that you can have. And at the moment, it looks like it’s working well," Henry signed off.
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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2016 10:42:35 IST