Walcott is a paradox of sorts in that he is a very gifted, yet unfortunate, young man. His athleticism and speed are natural talents that none can acquire with practice. On the other hand, he has the misfortune of being English, which means his technical skills are limited (I don’t have anything against the English/British but, in my opinion players from some of the other European countries are technically better, in general) and the pressure on him has been immense ever since a stupid decision took him to the last World Cup.
I also believe that it’s unfair to judge a player like him at this stage. If he’d been fully fit over the last two years and had still shown a lack of development then his critics would have been justified. But when a youngster is always under pressure to perform and has missed large parts of the last two seasons we have to cut him some slack.
Those with a keen eye would have observed that I did acknowledge the fact that Theo has not developed as well as we all expected. I believe even Arsene won’t deny that. At the same time, there is no way anyone can rationally proclaim that Walcott will never develop into a world class player.
Let’s look at his strengths and weaknesses,
- Blistering pace
- Fantastic timing of runs
- Creates a lot of space for others
- Good finishing skills, especially when in space
- Good work rate
- Disciplined backtracking
- Unselfish team-player
Areas of Improvement
- Needs to improve his touch and control over the ball while running
- Crossing (it’s an area where the whole team needs to improve so the problem could be with the training and coaches)
- Decision making
- Predictable nature of dribbling
If you think about it, most of his weaknesses can be improved upon with training and experience. He won’t become a Messi with the ball but he can certainly learn to do better than the likes of Lennon, Valencia, and Malouda who are all much older and were not at the same level at his age. Of course, there is always the risk that he goes down the path of Pennant and Bentley. Much like Nasri, Walcott is at a critical stage in his career. Hard work and a level head can see him through.
I’m convinced he’s improved a lot in the last couple of years. His control is getting better and his final ball has improved as well. Now he needs to find consistency. That and better tactical use of his strengths could give us another legendary No. 14!