More Than A Theo-ry
If you or I were to find ourselves trapped in a lift with a bunch of Premier League footballers, we would unquestionably be harassed, jostled, touched-up and given a full tattoo sleeve faster than you could yell ‘Clattenburg’.
Premier League footballers – we learn from reliable sources such as Twitter, or your aunty who does Gary Pallister’s ironing – are irredeemable sh*ts. Don’t be fooled by generous charity donations or enthusiastic community work, unless these greedy scoundrels are constructing a hospital for tiny babies and old dogs using cement fashioned from their own tears, they might as will be vomiting poppers into Sir Trevor Brooking’s face.
Thankfully, one man stands apart from all this loutish, balloon-chugging arseholery – Theo Walcott.
Since plopping into the Premier League consciousness as a 5-year-old boy at Southampton, Theo has won the hearts and minds of anyone who prefers their idols to be smart, polite and unlikely to aggressively teabag a family member.
The only chink in his glistening armour is this: he’s gone a bit rubbish.
Walcott has been a fixture in the Arsenal first team for almost a decade now. In his nine seasons at the club he has played over 230 times in the Premier League – more than Ian Wright.
And yet, if we can all be impressed by such longevity, other numbers don’t paint such a giddy picture of Walcott’s efforts.
During that time, he has scored just 55 league goals. Defenders of Theo – and there are many – would point to any number of justifications: bad luck with injuries, Wenger’s reluctance to play him regularly in his preferred centre forward role, how nice he is to small mammals.
However, no matter how badly you want to celebrate his successes, a Premier League scoring rate of less than one in four games is weak for an attacking midfielder in a top side – particularly one with persistent and noisy demands to be seen as a striker.
In just about 100 fewer games, Olivier Giroud – a man whose own Arsenal reputation fluctuates somewhere between a bad Kanu and a great Nicolas Bendter – has scored just two goals less than Walcott. Meanwhile Alexis Sanchez, that whirling mass of legs and effort, has scored 28 goals in just 62 games – from precisely the kind of positions that Walcott has had almost ten years to claim as his own.
This season, Walcott compares poorly to even his less established teammates. In his 27 appearances (12 of which have been off the bench) he’s managed 5 Premier League goals and 2 assists. Danny Welbeck has scored 3 times in just 9 games, while Alex Iwobi has 2 goals and matches Walcott’s 2 assists from just over 500 minutes on the pitch.
Not Vard’ Enough
Add to that the fact that Jamie Vardy has been booked in the league as many times this season as Walcott has in his entire Arsenal career, and familiar niggles arise. Whether you call it hunger, snarl, bite, edge or bastardry – the reality is that the best modern forwards have it and Theo, seemingly, does not.
But, if things at Arsenal are looking bleak for our hero, things at international level look like they’ve spent the weekend scraping flakes of ham out of Donald Trump’s throbbing colon.
Amongst the Premier League’s English goalscorers this season, Walcott is joint ninth – alongside defender Scott Dann, long-term injury victim Callum Wilson and World’s Most Complete Midfield Super Genius™ James Milner. 11 other Englishmen have scored more, including most of his serious rivals for a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad.
‘Cott to Go
The deeply sad reality is that Theo may well spend the summer not only sitting glumly in an ITV studio, but also waiting for a bony French finger to jab him apologetically out of The Emirates.
Walcott, through no real fault of his own, has become a symbol for every Wengerian title bid – sustained more by an idea of talent and promise than the rapidly receding reality.
Theo Walcott to make England’s Euro 2016 23-man squad:
Perhaps though, a move away from Arsenal may reignite the embers. Where Michael Owen spent his post-Liverpool years plodding, drifting and dreaming one day of being a deeply tedious telly droid, Walcott may find the change of scene refreshing. Linked to both West Ham and Liverpool in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine either Jurgen Klopp or Slaven Bilic failing to bearhug some kind of impact out of such a player.
Whatever happens next with England and Arsenal, Theo is one of those player who, deservedly, enjoys the good wishes of most right-thinking fans. Whereas many would like to see John Terry move from Chelsea to the lip of an active volcano, there would be few fans who’d begrudge Walcott the chance at a redo. That is, until the super-injunction’s lifted and it turns out he’s been snorting powdered rhino horn out of Katie Hopkins’ clammy thigh creases. And even then we’d probably still think he was alright.