The Walcott Conundrum
They say all good things come to end and our undefeated run came to an end Monday against a resilient and stubborn Swansea side. As the match wore on it was clear that we weren't going to find a way through the stubborn defense and we should have settled for a point but we ended up conceded a very late and soft goal to see 2nd place to removed from our hands and placed firmly in City's.
I am not going to say the sky is falling and all hope is lost but we need City to drop points and every game becomes a must win for us to finish 2nd. A lot of finger-pointing occurs after a match like this. Wenger, Giroud, Ramsey and Ospina all contributed to the loss if you believe everything you read in social media. Frankly, I just contribute it to a bad day at the office from a team standpoint. Our finishing was off, the defense had a lapse for the goal and Ospina should have gotten onto the ball a bit quicker. We were bound to suffer a match like this eventually, however we need to win these kind of games in order to be a title contender. That is what concerns me. We need to start finding a way to see these matches through and get the points.
We can analyze the match all day but in the end we lost and have to move on. What I wanted to discuss are the players in the squad, particularly Walcott. My opinion on Walcott is a strong one. I like him and I think he offers something to this squad but at the wages he is on, it isn't worth it. My main issue with him is his decision making. Walcott has never seemed to break out of the habit of running the ball to the goal line or touch line and out for the throw or goal kick. He doesn't cross or pass backwards. If he was playing FIFA he uses two buttons: sprint and shoot. Sometimes that is enough to break down a fullback but more often than not it just creates a lack of options something this team doesn't need.
He has several players ahead of him in the pecking order, Giroud, Welbeck, Ramsey, Cazorla, Alexis and Ox when fit. Of those players, all but Giroud are capable of playing out wide and provide more than just quick feet. The vision they possess is all far superior to Walcott and are able to play more passes centrally to Giroud for the hold up play. Walcott just doesn't do this. He does offer a goal threat but so does almost every player in midfield and attack. I am having a hard time finding out where Walcott fits into the starting XI. Nobody except for Welbeck can offer what Giroud does in the striker role as Walcott doesn't have the strength and control for hold up play. Out wide Ox will take on players and Alexis is Alexis, no need to say more. If Walcott isn't starting over a half-fit Ramsey I don't think that Wenger will start him at all.
Walcott's strength is his pace and to a tiring defense, this is terrifying but how much have we needed that this season? Not much. We weren't losing or drawing games this season because we were missing Walcott. We suffered due to a tired, injury-riddled defense and over worked midfield. Giroud's finishing wasn't a problem as his proficiency in front of goal since his injury spell has been terrific. During his absence Welbeck did the job pretty well and when fit and they share the bench, Welbeck comes on before Walcott. I think that speaks volumes for the player and his abilities. Being able to run and shoot isn't enough for this squad anymore. He also has a weakened bargaining hand since we have acquired Ozil and Alexis since the great player migration. Walcott was able to get a large wage and playing time because needed to stop the exodus of starting players and he knew that. Now that isn't the case. Losing Walcott doesn't put us at a huge disadvantage as it would have 4 years ago.
I do want him to stay because he is an option but I don't think he is OK with sitting on the bench game after game while he gets passed over for Welbeck. Podolski was in the same boat and he is on loan at Inter and is almost certainly gone in the summer. If had to choose between the two I would take Podolski simply because his finishing is better and that makes him more of a goal threat than Walcott (of course I am biased in this matter, but the point had to made). I am not saying that I want Walcott gone or that he is a bad player, just that our squad has evolved past him and his injury has stunted his ability to follow suit. It was an unfortunate that he suffered such a damaging injury to Spurs last season. He lost serious development time and time to gel with our new refined squad. This team is so different to the one he last played with. Bellerin, Coquelin, Monreal all getting starts with Cazorla playing deeper. Our balance is getting better and Walcott may not help that balance. Frankly it sucks because he is a player I truly like and want him to fit in. It may be too late for him though. Hopefully the manager will do the right thing and find that something special in him as we all know Wenger can. I am glad that Wenger has to make the decision and not me. It would be too tough. I know Walcott has a lot of fans and there are those who will read this and instantly disagree with me but just remember that I want Walcott in the side but not at the expense of our balance.
This weekend we play Manchester United and I think we will get the win at Old Trafford as we bounce back from the Swansea loss. This is also the weekend of the Carolina Goonerfest so check out the schedule of events on our Facebook page and sign up quick. We get to show off the best group of Gooners in the country to our fellow Carolinians.
Come on you Gunners!
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