Jack says that Theo looks faster and stronger than before he was injured in January. Given that he has seen Walcott a lot closer up than I, he’s a better judge on that being a true statement, but if it does prove to be true then we can all start to get quite excited about his impending return.
Excitement mixed with a tinge of realism though. After all, he’s spent the best part of ten months on the sidelines, having spent a significant part of last season on the treatment table before that too. But his impact when he does get underway and back to full fitness cannot be underestimated. Let’s not forget that Theo was our top scorer two seasons ago and, even in the short period of time with which he played for us last season, he was still able to bag a few goals.
Statements about his pace returning and then some (fears from many fellow Gooners that the injury could have slowed him down a tad now put to bed) are great to hear, but it’s the comment from Jack about his timing that I found most interesting, because I think that was a telling admission from our midfielder. Perhaps there is an element of the new attacking players not quite being on the same wavelength of the existing established first-teamers?
At the beginning of the season I remarked that we have the option of pace for those teams that want to play a higher line this season against us. That we do indeed, but in order for us to be successful, we also need the players to provide those balls in behind defences too. Jack talking about the importance of Theo’s timing – whilst showing that Waddle knows very little about football, Walcott not having a ‘football brain’ I’m sure you recall – shows that perhaps he can add something different to our game that is not just pace, but a different type of threat, when he is up and running at full strength.
I will probably be caveating all of the potential Walcott benefits for the next couple of weeks. After all, think how long Jack has taken to get back to form, or Aaron before him. So expecting Walcott to bag a hat-trick this weekend against Sunderland (surely tomorrow’s game is too soon??) is probably asking a little bit too much.
I think we should also temper the excitement of Walcott’s return with a reminder of what life is like at the moment. Teams know we have bags of pace in Alexis, Welbeck, The Ox and now Walcott. They know that to play a high line is folly, so we are treated to repeated displays like the one at the weekend where our opponents are more than content to sit deep, let us retain possession and find them very difficult to break down. I think it will probably be a pattern of play when Villa, Burnley, Leicester, West Ham, West Brom, all come to The Emirates. I’ve noted at times that sometimes Theo is rendered a little bit redundant in these types of games because all of the play has to be in front of an opponents back four rather than behind, so whilst I too am excited about his imminent re-introduction into the first team, I am mindful of what to expect when the ‘smaller’ teams come to town.
Even if Theo plays this weekend in some capacity, he will most likely come across a Sunderland team more concerned with proving to their fans that they can actually defend, so I think the upcoming weekend game might even play out like a home fixture. Potentially. Sunderland could just as well come out all guns blazing and give us more space, but we’ll wait and see for that, saving the speculation on who might start for later on in the week methinks.
A quick one on our rivals for third and fourth spot. We are fortunate enough that our inability to effectively ‘click’ yet hasn’t cost us too much ground in our annual fight to be also-rans. If you can look for any positives from the weekend’s football, it’s that the Spuds, United and Liverpool all showed their respective frailties. So whilst we’re labouring, so are others. What we need to do now is to start building the momentum with a minimum of two wins within the next five days. We have the players to do it, as well as the ability over our rivals, but we need to see more belief from our team. Arsène often talks about the ‘mental strength’ of the team, but we haven’t seen that much of it so far this season (particularly against Hull where the second goal was down to ‘lack of focus’. What is that if not a lack of mental strength?), so we need to have some of that stuff delivered to our door for immediate injection into the players please.
Until tomorrow, where thou shalt be delivered unto the a match report so pure, it will grant you back your virginity. Or something.