Signed in January 2006, Theo Walcott is the longest serving member of Arsenal’s current squad and the last remaining player connection to the Invincibles era, having trained with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. But despite his longevity at Arsenal his career has been anything but a smooth road.
Despite going to the 2006 World Cup with England, Walcott didn’t get his first professional match for Arsenal until opening day of the 2006/2007 season. Down 1-0 against Aston Villa in the brand new Emirates Stadium, Wenger threw Walcott on and it was his cross which found van Persie, who nodded on to Gilberto to score the first ever goal at the Emirates.
Despite the auspicious start it wouldn’t be until Boxing Day 2006 when he got his first full assist, in the 2-1 win away to Watford. A cross to van Persie if I recall. Though, that was 10 years and many bottles of whiskey ago.
Walcott scored just one goal that season, his first Arsenal goal, against Chelsea in the League cup final (Diaby assist). This would turn out to be a prophetic goal in two ways. First, in that Walcott is actually a bit of a big game player. The team he’s scored the most goals against is Chelsea, he has six. He also has six against Newcastle, which isn’t a big team, but his second largest goals haul comes against our other hated London neighbor, Tottenham. He has scored five goals against them.
But Walcott’s first goal was also a poisoned chalice because Arsenal lost that match 2-1. Walcott has played on an Arsenal team which has lost six times after he put them ahead 1-0: twice to Chelsea and once each to Shaktar Donetsk, Wigan, Liverpool, and Man City. Arsenal have also won 14 times when Walcott made the score 1-0 and have drawn 4 times, with one of those draws the 4-4 to Newcastle. Walcott has scored first 24 times and Arsenal have W14 D4 L6. Compare to Drogba who put Chelsea in the lead 1-0, 59 times and won 47, drew 7 and lost 5.
I’m only counting the times he put Arsenal ahead 1-0 and the team went on to lose or draw. Arsenal also dropped points from a Walcott lead against Birmingham (2-2). These losses and draws have hurt Walcott’s game winning goals record and as a result he has only scored the game winner 21 times.
When we break out Walcott’s goals on a per minute basis and when we look at his overall goal-scoring contribution over his career, in terms of games he won Arsenal as a percentage of the games he played, he’s looks a lot like a decent winger but not a striker.
This is a busy chart, I apologize. But as you can see from the comparisons to Bale, Hazard, and even Alexis, Theo Walcott’s goals scored return looks more like a winger than a forward.
We expect strikers to score in lots of games and score lots of goals when they do. Thierry Henry was the gold standard of this, scoring in 45% of his overall games played for Arsenal and scoring nearly 50% of his 229* goals as either braces, hat-tricks, or more. We also expect our forwards to win us matches and no one did that better than Henry, with 79 game winners. 79.
Walcott’s % of games scored in, % of games won, and minutes per goal all compare closer to Bale and Hazard and not at all like the forwards on this list.
In the end, that’s just a fact of Walcott’s career at Arsenal. 100 goals is a remarkable achievement in the context of him playing as a wide forward for most of his career. That is where he looks to have stuck now that he and Wenger have decided to give Sanchez a go at center forward.
*I count the one the FA gave to Scott Dann – we all know Henry meant to hit it off Dann and besides it was on target.