You’ve heard this before: Theo Walcott looks like he’s in the form of his life and ready to become an Arsenal star.
This statement is usually followed by Walcott getting injured or having his position changed or just a dip in form. That very well may happen again, but it’s impossible to deny how good the Arsenal man has looked in recent weeks.
Ever since Walcott returned from a week out with a knee injury, he has scored four goals in three matches. He was the Man of the Match against Basel on Wednesday, a constant threat against Chelsea over the weekend and sharp against Hull. Not coincidentally, Arsenal have won those three matches by a combined score of 9-1. As Walcott has surged, so have the Gunners.
It’s not as if Walcott is doing this alone. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Iwobi have all been great as well, making for a four-man attack that is ravaging opposing defenses. Their speed and ability to constantly interchange makes them difficult to track and nearly impossible to stop when they find space on the counterattack. Their skill on the ball and creativity make them a threat when space closes down, too. But the only way it works is when everyone is clicking and everyone can fit that style of play. That is makes Walcott so valuable — he rounds out the quartet.
On Wednesday, Walcott got on the scoresheet simply by running to the goal and waiting for the cross right in front of goal. You can point to Basel’s terrible defending (it was definitely very bad), but you can’t dismiss how something as simple as Walcott’s pace and running from deep can cause problems for defenses. Basel should have picked up Walcott, but he was on them so quickly that they didn’t, and they won’t be the last team to get burned by it.
The simplicity of pace and movement causing problems was even more evident on Walcott’s second goal. He played a one-two with Sanchez — a play so basic and simple that you see it in warm-ups before every match. But this time it worked like it came off the training ground because nobody on the Basel back line could keep pace with Walcott. He got in behind the defense then clinically slotted his shot off the inside of the post and in for the goal.
What Walcott showed on Wednesday was no different than what he showed in his previous two matches. It was pace, skill and the ability to provide a direct threat even in a system that likes to possess the ball and play with quick interchanges. That also happens to be exactly what people hoped he would be since he was a teenager. Be it Arsenal or England, this was the Theo Walcott that was supposed to be a star.
It’s only been three matches over the course of 12 days. It’s hardly proof of a new Walcott. That he was told to prove himself as he and the Gunners discussed a new contract isn’t different than the dozens of times we’ve heard that before, either, only for him to get hurt or spend the next three months toiling away as a center forward. But he has been undeniably great and Arsenal are thriving in part because of Walcott.