Ever since Thierry Henry went on his hols to Spain, Arsenal fans have been crying out for the club to sign a World Class Striker.
Arguably, we haven’t had an out-and-out goalscorer since Ian Wright, and if we ever had a goal hanger like Shearer, Lineker or the equine master of the art, van Nistelrooy, you have to go back at least 30 years (Stapleton, SuperMac maybe?).
Any excuse to use this pic is a good excuse!
Van Persie clearly had the quality, but injuries and skunkery meant we only had one full season of him at his peak to enjoy.
I will fast forward past the motley crew of players who have led the line since RvP’s departure (yes, Nicklas, even you) to look at the current crop.
I am a fan of Olivier Giroud. His record (61 goals in 110 appearances, plus 35 sub appearances) stands up against almost anyone’s in the Premier League. In addition to his goals, he holds the ball up well and has made something of a speciality of those flicks to put in an on-rushing midfielder. He is involved in every goal scored when he’s on the pitch, and he’s a big asset defensively too.
To me, Giroud is clearly a very good striker, but I don’t think anyone would say he is World Class.
It’s really too early to make any judgment about Danny Welbeck at Arsenal. It’s a real shame he’s picked up the injury that’s prevented him playing this season – but I think we can say that, however exciting his potential, he is not World Class yet.
This brings us on to the man who is the focus of this post, namely Theo Walcott. He has famously insisted that, despite the fact he’s played on the right wing for most of his career to date, he is a centre forward, and he has been given the chance to prove it since coming back from this injury.
There is plenty of historical precedent for a fast, slightly-built striker. Michael Owen is an obvious example, and Theo is bound to have more shooting options from the centre of the pitch than when running in from the right, where his extreme right-footedness makes the angles even tighter.
However I think it’s fair to say that it’s taken him a little time to adjust to the demands of the role.
Like most of the team, he had a sluggish start to this season. But his recent form (7 goals, 3 assists in his last 9 appearances for club and country – during which he only played an average of 60 minutes) means he must surely now be taken seriously as a central striker.
In particular, I enjoyed the goal he scored on Friday night against Estonia. He timed his run perfectly, controlled the ball and finished without fuss. OK, the defending could have been better, but that’s not his fault.
It was a clear demonstration of his improvement since last season, when he was caught offside far too often and missed too many of the chances with which he was presented – particularly when he had time to think.
The pundits after the game clearly felt that Rooney, Kane and Sturridge are still ahead of Theo in the England pecking order, but frankly who cares what Glenn Hoddle thinks?
I have also noticed that he is coming across far more confidently in post-match interviews lately. I know you don’t win matches there, but it is indicative of a man who has found his mojo and developed from a timid, temperamental youngster into a senior player and leader. You can see the steely determination in his eyes, or is it the steel wool on his chin?
In any event, practically everyone feels Theo is ahead of Giroud in the pecking order that counts, even if he is not yet World Class, so the question is … is he the striker that can lead a team to the Premier League title?
Assuming they can stay fit (which is a dangerous thing to do with any Arsenal player!) Walcott, backed up by Giroud and (eventually) Welbeck really should be good enough – especially when we have such a strong array of talent behind. It is not unreasonable to think that Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Rosicky and, of course, Alexis will bang in enough to fill the gap left by the absence of a 30-goal striker.
Right now, there’s only one striker in the Premier League who I would swap for Theo – Aguero, obviously. So, Gooners, we may not have Lewandowski, Mueller or Benzema, but let’s get behind the boys we have, and cheer them on to a glorious 14th league title.
For the record, my prediction is that Theo scores a perfect hat-trick to seal the title at the City of Manchester Stadium.