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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

All the best Theo and thanks for being The Arsenal

Imagine having a photo like this


So Theo Walcott has moved on to Everton after 12 years as an Arsenal player. During that time he's infuriated me more often than not and there have been occasions where I've questioned if he has ever improved from the 16 year-old child we signed from Southampton. On other occasions he's thrilled me with his pace and his goals. The lad is one of the few to have scored more than 100 goals for Arsenal FC and that is totally deserving of praise. He's done that pretty much exclusively while playing on the wing, often as a substitute, and usually taken off when he started a game regardless of his performance. Some people have been quite abusive towards him, especially in the last year or two, but that is a viewpoint I take particular exception to, as I would with any Arsenal player.
The worst thing that happened to Theo, in hindsight, was being taken to the 2006 World Cup but not being given a game. It created a hype and an expectation around a young boy that he could never possibly have lived up to. It's actually a testament to his character that he is still such a level-headed, well-adjusted bloke. There has never been any controversy around Theo Walcott. He is always well-spoken in his interviews and has never stepped out of line on or off the pitch. He is a family man, married to the young lady he's always been with. He got stick over the business about the coffee machine she allowed him to purchase after getting his goals target a couple of years ago. Why? Why would you abuse him for being quite so down to earth? Most footballers with his money would be promising themselves the new Aston Martin or something but it was apparently a sign that something about Theo wasn't right in the minds of some idiots. I take the opposite view and see it as a sign that, despite the pressure he has always been under because of the fame he had at a young age, he is due absolute credit for never being swept along. Plenty of English youngsters, Jack Wilshere included, could learn a lot from the way Theo has conducted his life.
On the pitch he has an incredible record in big games. His best moments have often come against top opposition, or on the big occasion - his debut saw him set up Gilberto for the first competitive Arsenal goal in the new stadium, his first goal was in the League Cup Final later that season. He scored in FA Cup semi-finals, against Barcelona, at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, and he had a superb record against Tottenham - who can forget his two goals in the first of the 5-2 wins against them? Just in case you have forgotten here is a link - just feel that celebration and energy in the stadium.
Theo's pace could be electrifying and he scared defenders when he was on his game. I'll always have the memories of the night he sparked the comeback against Barcelona, the best team on the planet. There was the incredible run at Anfield on the night we should have beaten them in the Champions League when he set up Adebayor. He was also instrumental in the dismantling of Manchester United a couple of years back when his pace ran their defence all over the pitch and created the space that allowed Ozil and Sanchez to utterly destroy them. I wish he'd used his pace to take on defenders far more than he did by simply knocking it past them and chasing it - that was where he would frustrate me so much by either running straight in to his man or by turning inside. Nevertheless, when he was on his game I have never seen anyone so quick across a football pitch. I will always maintain that, played as a striker alongside Van Persie or Giroud he would have had an even better career - Giroud would also have benefited greatly from that.
My favourite Theo moment has to be the 2015 FA Cup Final when he had earned his starting place by scoring a hat-trick at home to West Brom in the last league game of the season. We were dominating Aston Villa but couldn't score and were missing chances. Theo hadn't played the year before against Hull after doing his cruciate ligament in the 3rd round win over Tottenham, remembered for him winding up the away end from his stretcher. He wasn't able to be at the game against Hull as his baby son was seriously ill at the time. Walcott was clearly hungry against Villa and he started and finished the move for the first goal. When Alexis nodded the ball back across Theo was right down in front of me and you could see the ball falling to him on the volley. I swear time stopped and everyone held their breaths as he struck it with his weaker left foot. He caught it brilliantly and the ball left his boot like a rocket. It slammed in to the net past Shay Given and I have rarely heard a noise, or witnessed a scene like the one that greeted it. The yellow and blue covered Arsenal fans at that end of the ground exploded in one of the greatest goal celebrations I have ever been a part of. It was a truly magical moment. It's worth reliving here I would say.
So I have nothing but respect for Theo Walcott. I'll keep the fond memories of him and will always think of him as an Arsenal man. He understood exactly what it meant to "be" The Arsenal. Theo is a classy individual and I wish him all the best for his future. He will always be welcomed back, I hope, by the supporters - he certainly will by me.

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