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October 2016
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How Arsène Wenger’s faith in Theo Walcott is paying off this season

By Walter Broeckx

On August 6th Arsène Wenger said this about Theo:

“Theo is intelligent, he analyses well what’s happening to him and he’s mentally very strong, and the way he practises, the way he works since the start of the season, I think I’m very positive that we can get a great season from him.”

That sentence was followed by an amazing outburst of insults thrown at both Wenger and Theo.  If you needed any more proof that Le Prof had lost it finally, this was it.

Walcott who struggled last season after coming back from a long term injury and didn’t finding the rhythm when he got injured again was declared useless for once and for all. This is how it goes these days when a player is having a difficult moment. Instead of showing some support the player is ridiculed and declared deadwood.

Of course it was frustrating to see Theo struggle. But instead of shouting : “see, told yo uso he is rubbish and Always has been,” I still shouted “Theo” whenever he came on the field. Hoping that he finally would pick up at the height he had reached before.

I think on the lists that people made with “Players Wenger has to sell or give away” he featured a lot. I know for sure as I have seen dozens on Facebook and on the internet shouting to give him away. To West Ham or State Aid United (still not completely used to it Tony). We had to give him for free to them. As if getting a stadium for free wasn’t enough. No we had to give Theo to hem for free also. I think they were just State Aid United fans in disguise silently hoping to get him for free. After all… they get it all for free it seemed.

But Wenger didn’t see it that way. And he got abused for it. But that is maybe nothing new for some.  And from the start of the season he played Walcott back in his old familiar position on the right wing. And the result is that Walcott now is our top scorer – at least for the moment. That is amazing turnaround of course. From “got to get rid of him” to top scorer in two months. I guess lots of people will be happy to forget the abuse they send in Theo’s direction by now.   Or the abuse sent in Wenger’s direction.

Not only has Theo reached the level he had done before but this time you see something different. A player who is determined to make it. I think the main problem Theo has had was that whenever he was hitting a high level he got injured. I remember him getting injured playing for England. I remember him getting injured when we won against the tiny totts and he was more or less kicked off the field with two excessive tackles on his Achilles heel minutes before his knee gave way.

So the thing I fear most for Theo is that they will start to target him as they have done in the past. I hope that the refs will be up in arms to prevent this from happening. But I am not holding my breath.

If there is one thing that makes me believe that Theo himself might be better armed to prevent this it is that he seems to have bulked up over the past year. After his knee injury he seemed to be scared a bit at first. That was the impression I got. He stayed out of the battle for the ball if possible. Just trying to find space and be as far away from the defenders. But this has changed this season.

We now see a Theo that battles and fights for every ball no matter where they are on the pitch. The way he is teaming up with Bellerin on the right flank is amazing to see. If I had one thing that I didn’t like about Theo it was that he neglected his defensive duties a bit too much in the past. But now… I think he has made more fouls than Bellerin has made! Any stat man who can check this? Theo is no longer afraid to get stuck in. And he has made a few fouls that made me think: wait is this Theo? Better check on the replay… yes it is him.

Theo has changed from that soft football player into a harder player. A player that will make the foul when it is needed. I don’t think we will ever see Theo making dangerous rash challenges like Xhaka did last weekend but I wouldn’t completely say it would be impossible if he did at some time when it would be needed in the match. But then again Theo could use his speed to make up ground if he would find himself in such a position.

So let us hope that Theo stays injury free or at least doesn’t get a long term injury. But with the way he looks stronger he might be strong enough to avoid it. Maybe with all the personal problems he and his wife had with their child it may have been too much on his mind in the past. With those problems behind him he looks a man that has broken the chains of whatever prevented him from going from a boy to a man. As that is what I see now when I see Theo on the field. No longer that small looking frame with a player who was nice to anyone, even his opponents. Theo looks like a man now who will give you nothing for free.

I sure hope it will continue and thank god, Wenger was the man who maybe had seen the transition long before the rest of us did.

Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society

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Arsenal – Swansea 3-2, good play, nasty tackle and character shown

Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.

Former Arsenal player John Barnwell talks about his years at Highbury


18 comments to How Arsène Wenger’s faith in Theo Walcott is paying off this season

  • razac

    nice write up but I believe it is the competition in Arsenal now that made Theo buckle up becos he knw that if he didnt go back to his natural position and fight for it then he will loose the place to other player even the pundits now know Arsenal now have squad depth with very good players…….

  • Tom

    This is the second time in as many weeks ,it seems ,you have tried to suggest Theo’s new found approach to his game on both sides of the ball, has more to do with getting over some mental effect of his injuries and not the change in his own attitude.

    Despite his own words to the contrary, which are too easy to find with a two minute Google search, you seem convinced in your head about this nonsense you are pushing.

    One of the things I like about Walcott is his honesty and not once has he used his injuries, which were significant , as an excuse for his previous shortcomings.

    Why speculate when you can hear it from the horses mouth?
    So what that Theo decided to man up at 27 instead a few years earlier.
    I know some people who have lived in denial for all of their lives.

    Looking at himself and deciding to grow as a player and a person should be applauded by every Arsenal fan, and not spun into something that wasn’t.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Tom, any football player admitting he had/has fear is lost on a football field. Opponents will try to exploit that fear by going in harder and harder.
    Eduardo will never say he got scared after comming back from his leg break. But if you look at how he played before/after you could see the fear all over him.
    But he never said he was afraid. But you could see it and it was clear to see if you looked for it.
    I just have the same feeling with Theo now.
    I might be wrong but I could be right. Only Theo knows and he will probably never tell the whole truth as long as he is playing. Same for Eduardo.
    Never admit you are scared.

  • Leon

    Not being in the England squad for Euro 2016 was a blessing in disguise for Theo. Instead of sitting on his arse for the summer employed himself a personal trainer and got into the seriously muscular condition we now see.
    I’m sure I read somewhere that he discussed his team role with Arsene and decided that at 27 he needed to man up (or something like that), so after ten years we now have the player we should have had 3 or four years ago.
    Theo today, Ox-Chamberlain tomorrow.

  • Tom

    There’s only one problem with your logic here. Walcott, in his 10 year Arsenal career, has never before shown the industry and effort he’s been showing now, and there were large swaths of injury free seasons.

    Even in his best scoring season of his professional career he was a defensive liability, something he has admitted to recently.

    Besides, why would a player be afraid to admit to something that’s no longer in effect.
    If he were scared to go into challenges before and he isn’t now, then the opposition can’t exploit this fear because it no longer exists.

  • Tom

    Also, closing players down and helping your fullback in coverage doesn’t require tackling or getting stuck in.
    Some of the most effective defending is done while staying on your feet.

  • Graham

    I do tend to agree with most of the comments above, Theo has manned up recently, but I think the majority of that influence comes from Sanchez. Theo has realised that if you want to be a great player, put in the tracking back miles, put in the forward runs, you have to up your fitness game. I think a few of our player have seen Sanchez being the first man on and the last man off the training pitch. Seen him fight for a ball that he has lost, return to do his defensive duties etc. I think the whole tram has realised that more is need from the team as a whole and if Theo wants to be part of that team, he needs to put in a much greater effort all over the pitch……the desire to close down, win the ball, win the ball back is evident across the whole team. It us possibly more noticeable in Theo because of his past, but I do believe it is all due to the influence, training and playing style of Sanchez….

  • Philbet

    On a different note its noticeable that the AAA have gone rather quiet recently, coinciding with a winning run, it goes some way to prove the point that really they are not “anti Arsenal” they are just “want to win every game like life’s some sort of dreamworld and there life’s perfect” such a sad immature attitude is responsible for so much angst and retribution, the next time one sticks his head above the parapet, ask them where they were when we were winning??

  • Gord


    And Theo, being a complete idiot, cannot now see how his adding effort and industry to his game would be useful, nor could he see this in the past. It cannot be a matter of cognition which has made this year better.

    I will agree that a defender should stay on his (or her, as the case may be) feet.

  • Tom

    “It’s all down to hard work. Me and the manager sat down before the beginning of the season and I just looked at myself, I know what I can do…..”
    “It’s a shame, maybe it should’ve hit me a few years ago, but there’s been a change in my whole attitude” – said Walcott according to the Guardian.

    No sarcasm.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    It’s a great good news for Theo’ and Arsenal to see him regain his lost top form for Arsenal this season. Le Prof is like the patient bird that does patiently waits for his food to be ready and then eats it without haven to struggled to cook it.

    Theo’ is a right winger for Arsenal. But with the freedom afforded the Gunners in their game, I’ve noticed him moving into the striker position of late in the team to score goals for us. While Sanchez has appeared to be playing behind him as the player maker providing assists and Ozil now operates more from the left wing to score goals too. This is a great variation in the Gunners match positional playing which seems to be confusing their opponents match plan and had caused them to fall to Arsenal. I hope be to seeing more of this variations in positional playing by the Gunners in their games that will continue to make our opponent teams fall to us as the season progresses.

  • Gord

    I think Theo has missed the importance of recognizing that the change was needed. If he hadn’t of recognized that, I don’t think hard work would have helped. Of course, Wenger helped him to recognize this.

    It is nice of you to dig up the quote Tom.

  • Jerry

    I think you’re kind of just picking a pointless argument with Walter.The definition of attitude:

    “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”

    So while you are looking for and focusing on the technical word “attitude”, Walter is actually using the meaning of the word, focusing on his change in thinking.

    And Walter, yes you are correct, Theo compared to Bellerin has committed more fouls (9 to 3) and tackles (14-6) in 17 less minutes according to Whoscored

  • Menace

    OT slightly – Walter as the current officiating referee on this site, could you please give us a brief description of why officials talk to players & also why professional players need to be talked to. I feel cheated by professional players needing to be talked to & sent to the naughty step when they get paid obscene amounts to play the game. Each talking to robs me of ‘paid for minutes’ in a game.

  • porter

    You could always thank the England international set up that by leaving him out brought him up short . He was made to realise that it was a turning point and that unless he changed then his career was going the wrong way. He probably discussed things with many people including Wenger . So far the new Theo is working , lets hope he continues in the same vein.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Let us hope that he has matured and the injuries and the past are behind him ; and that he will go on to be a very good and productive player for us.

    ‘ Its your road ,and yours alone .Others may walk it with you ,but no one can walk it for you .’ – Rumi

  • Robido

    Whatever the reason, and it might be all of the above, Theo is impressing even the antitheoists around me. He is not the one bouncing off and looking bemused in upper body contacts. His first goal showed this and it seems to be giving more composure on the ball. This could be the real turning point to becoming exceptional for us.

  • Walter

    I agree with with your analysis of Theo, however lets not forget, as you’ve stated several times in previous posts re; our Academy/Young Players. When fans , experts and other pundits have written off
    our players, Arsene has shown the patience and created the environment for our players to develop. Given the constant pressure from fans and critics to win trophies.

    I would rather see a young player develop into a great player than to spend silly amounts on buying players.

    To me I value that as more of a success than trying to buy Trophies.

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