Arsene Wenger says that he sees Theo Walcott as a striker more than a wide man, after the player came out this week and said he’d prefer to play on the right hand side again.
Despite years of talking about how much he wanted to be a centre-forward, the 27 year old admitted he’d more or less given up on that ambition, preferring a return to the right hand side where he has played most of his football for Arsenal.
However, it seems unlikely that he’ll be granted his wish as the manager wants to use him as a striker and feels that’s his best position.
“I believe that he has all the ingredients to be a great striker, because of the quality of his runs,” he said.
“He is an intelligent player, a good finisher. I believe that to use his runs in the final third for us could be very efficient.”
One the main reasons Wenger stopped picking Walcott on the right was his lack of defensive awareness, something the Arsenal manager pointed out.
“He is not a great defender,” he continued. “On the flank, today there is much defensive work asked from the players that you lose a lot of his qualities when you put him there. For me in my head I will use him more up front.”
The Frenchman pointed to Walcott’s dismal performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season as one which has sapped the player’s confidence, but has backed him to come good again.
“On the day he didn’t perform well, but it was not only Theo Walcott who didn’t have a great game, it was everybody,” he said.
“From then on, people became sceptical. You know a year ago he was more confident to play through the middle and I’m convinced that changed his mind, the fact that he was not selected for the Euros was a big blow for him.
“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.”
Quite what it says about Theo’s mental strength is open to question, and the Arsenal manager always tries to boost his players confidence publicly. Although, the fact he rarely selected him as a striker last season – even when Olivier Giroud went through his goalscoring drought – says a lot.
If Arsenal do sign a striker this summer (hahahahaha, etc), it means Walcott is likely to be pushed further down the pecking order.
All in all it’s a confused, unhealthy situation with the player saying one thing and the manager something quite different. After ten years at the club, there really should be more clarity than this.