Theo Walcott has previously called for Arsene Wenger to play him up front for Arsenal (via the Mirror), but the legendary boss has since been reluctant to give him a run through the middle, instead grooming him into a wide-right role.
The debate regarding Walcott’s position has resurfaced due to Roy Hodgson’s decision to start the 26-year-old as a central striker for England against Italy, which didn’t turn out too well.
Following the game, Premier League legend Matt Le Tissier called for Walcott to leave the Gunners if he wants a career as a striker with Wenger’s philosophy not suitable for a player of his style of play (via talkSPORT).
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It is clear to see why many think the former Southampton man can play in that position; he’s unbelievably quick and the timing of his runs and movement are both impeccable, but it hasn’t worked for Walcott when he’s been positioned there in the past.
When analysing the landscape of modern football, Wenger building Walcott up as a right-winger may have saved his career – with the player the England forward dreams of being not favoured by top clubs anymore.
Walcott would suit a front two, a classic little-and-large partnership, but few top clubs around Europe play with two central strikers, most managers opting to have a lone forward to lead the line in order to flood the midfield.
This therefore restricts Walcott’s opportunities, as he isn’t the most powerful of players and with modern football demanding the front-man to hold the ball up efficiently, as the likes of Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema do on a weekly basis, Walcott would struggle in such a role.
Players of Walcott’s ilk are struggling at this moment in time and have been over the past few years as football managers shifted with the times. A simple glance at the career of Javier Hernandez will help many understand why. A textbook ‘fox in the box forward’, the Mexican international cannot get a game at the moment either at Real Madrid or Man United. Not strong enough to play as a lone forward and lacking the guile to play out wide – these are issues the likes of Jermain Defoe has had to deal with too.
Therefore, Wenger’s early decision to develop Walcott as a wide-forward has saved the England man from being stuck in a period of stagnation, with nowhere to turn in his career. It is evident in his build up play – or lack of – that Arsenal’s no.14 would rather be on the end of the moves than to be creating them.
Walcott needs to block out these claims that he is better off up front and thank his lucky stars that his manager had the premonition to move along with the times and find a new position in which he can continue to excel in for the rest of his career.