Theo Walcott’s final day hat-trick against West Brom has helped to reignite the debate about whether he should start as a striker for Arsenal on a regular basis. And could it be the key to him staying at the Emirates?
The 26-year-old has just a year left on his contract and has yet to reach an agreement over a new deal. He has been linked with a move to Liverpool and Arsene Wenger has confirmed talks have started with Walcott’s agent.
Theo Walcott is yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal. [Picture: Ronnie Macdonald]
Walcott has regularly expressed a wish to play in a central role on a permanent basis and now looks to be the time to give the England international a run up front.
The type and variety of goals he scored against West Brom certainly suggested there is merit in giving him a go at the start of next season ahead of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck. He scored a screamer, a clinical finish and a tap-in, and allied to his pace and movement, he offers an excellent threat for Arsenal.
Wenger feels Walcott is now the right age to play through the middle and it must be worth considering, especially as Arsenal also have enough options to play on the wing.
If Arsenal want to become serious Premier League title contenders next season and more than outsiders in the Uefa competitions betting for the Champions League, then something needs to change in attack.
Giroud has proven himself to be a solid Premier League striker, but he has not demonstrated he can be the difference in transforming Arsenal from Champions League qualifiers to champions. He scored 11 and 16 goals in his first two seasons, respectively, in the Premier League, missing a total of just six games. This season, he scored 14 goals in 27 appearances. He also failed to score in his final seven league outings after scoring in the last minute in the 4-1 win over Liverpool.
Welbeck, during Giroud’s injury absence for a couple of months at the start of the season, also failed to demonstrate he can be Arsenal’s main man. He scored just four goals in 25 Premier League appearances and his impressive form for England is a curious contrast.
Wenger may have Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell coming back from loan spells this summer, but they don’t possess the potential to hit the 20-goal mark. The one player currently in Wenger’s squad who does have that potential is Walcott, but only if he is trusted up front on a regular basis, rather than just occasionally.
A last day treble against another team with little to play for may not be the most reliable guide of whether Walcott should have an extended run as a striker. But it is the nature of the goals themselves that make the case for saying it is worth a try.
That’s not to say Wenger shouldn’t look at the likes of Jackson Martinez and Alexandre Lacazette as potential summer signings.
But if Wenger is serious about wanting Walcott to stay at Arsenal for the long term, then the time is right to give him a chance as a centre-forward.
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