From The Left Wing: Why play Theo? He can’t even walk on water.

AFCB writer Daniel Brookes comments on Theo Walcott in ‘From The Left Wing’…

You have to feel sorry for Theo Walcott sometimes. As an Arsenal fan, I’ve watched him progress over the last three or four years and thought of him simply as a young player who must have a certain amount of quality to be playing first team football for a title-challenging club. A club that he’s been turning out for since the age of 17 no less. Does any one else really think any different of the guy?

Well apparently they do. This weekend Theo netted his first club hat-trick against Blackpool and his reward was a mauling on national television at the hands of every one’s favourite pundit, Alan Hansen, who took time out of his busy ‘being a cock’ schedule to be a cock about Theo.

Hansen’s main problem with Theo was that he ‘was good, but he isn’t the world’s best’, a title that neither Walcott nor any member of the Arsenal staff or support has ever claimed, though that obviously doesn’t matter. Furthermore, Walcott was slammed for displaying instinctive and intuitive brilliance that didn’t quite match his decision making at other times. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that Hansen said of Walcott just before the world cup that ‘he needs to learn to think as fast as he can run.’ – when he is now seemingly criticising him for quite the opposite.

Nobody is getting carried away with his hat-trick against a team who are likely to be the Premier League’s whipping boys this season. Nobody has slapped a 50m price tag on his head, put him forward for player of the year or suggested he is anywhere near the same calibre as Lionel Messi and pals. He’s just our right winger and he netted a hat-trick, hats off to the lad.

Every Arsenal fan knows the weaknesses of Theo’s game, but we are also fully aware that he has a good ten+ years of football ahead of him and he will develop into an even better player. That’s not to say that he isn’t good enough for our first team set-up already – he has a respectable amount of international experience and some high profile Champions League games under his belt, I just think his best is yet to come and that that is an exciting prospect.

The criticism is not even wholly unjustified, but what stands out is the disproportionate amount of abuse Theo seems to get compared to his contemporaries. Hansen, of course, is only one of his detractors, but what I do not understand is how often he bares the brunt of other people’s ‘professional opinion’ after he has just done something quite incredible.

When he was left out of England’s doomed World Cup squad, I think there was an overall feeling here that his omission was warranted. In the friendly matches England played prior to the world cup, the commentators and pundits were approximately 3000% more critical of Theo than any other player on the pitch that I can remember.

It’s literally bewildering, considering Theo was left out in favour of an unfit Shaun Wright-Phillips, who wasn’t even making the first team at City, and James Milner – a player who would still struggle to beat the left back if you lined up with a training cone in that position. Both Wright-Phillips and Milner were utterly obtuse and lumbering in their international matches over the summer, yet the criticism seemed to fall solely on the manager for selecting them, rather than their poor performances directly. Those are two players who have chalked up over 30m in transfer expenses each, by the way, but seemingly still have no extra obligation to perform.

There is no mystical conveyor belt which churns out legendary footballers, but I believe brilliance can be acquired in some cases through experience and confidence. I wonder what people thought of Thierry Henry’s ‘footballing brain’ when he was 21? I also wonder how Walcott will react in the next match when after scoring a hat-trick he switches on the television and sees someone announcing that he did well, but will never be a great player?

Walcott simply offers our attacking line up some real penetration and he always looks committed to the cause. I have high hopes this season if he is no longer afraid to draw fouls, shoot, set-up or leave his marker for dead. As for his faults, I’ve only ever seen him unsuccessful, never lazy. Perhaps he could dodge so much attention if he switched to the opposite wing, maybe took on a more Eastern European nationality and picked and chose the games he turns up for. Until then I’ll applaud his resolve.

There is no reason to scrutinise Walcott more than any other young player, and given the fact that he is more down-to-earth than Newton’s apple, I can’t imagine him ever suffocating on his own pomp and grandeur like Ronaldo. He brings none of this on himself and thus I can only feel sorry for him as he apparently owes England some sort of incredible set-the-world-alight career from here on out. What do you mean he only scored three goals today? We’d best tear him apart.

Have your say on this week’s ‘From The Left Wing’ by leaving a comment.



  1. Great Post!
    Said everything that needs to be said. Unfortunately people still don’t listen.

  2. Alan Hanson is a disgrace and its about time the BBC got rid of him and Lawrenson and the rest of their liverpool biased dinosaurs who can only talk about getting stuck in and long balls. They are so tired.

  3. Top post mate. You’ve got to wonder what the lad has to do to get a break. The day he lives up to his expectations, he’s dragged across the floor. More of the same Theo, I say!

  4. Hansen is a commentator without a brain. What he is saying will be therefore intellectually stimulating….to him.

    Keep faith Hansen, one day you will make it surely.

  5. Well said. Sometimes we forget that he is still a VERY YOUNG player with loads of potential to be developed. His call-up by Sven to the 2006 WC really placed too much expectations on this boy’s shoulder, which gave him problems,literally and figuratively. Hopefully, this year we can finally see Theo going on the road to achieving greatness.

  6. Thank god people like you are stil alive to help defend our players, why would anybody be complaining about him? If Welbeck scored a hat trick, Fergie would slap a large price tag on him and complain if anyone bid for him

  7. I personally think this is an over-the-top reaction. Hansen was clearly pushed to go further by lineker, and I dont think his comments were that bad at the time. I disagree with hansen saying that theo can never “[learn a football brain]” or however he put it, but the thing about theo is he has never been consistent, and there is always a danger that this hype with take off again.
    “given the fact that he is more down-to-earth than Newton’s apple” – that’s not my impression. I know hes a nice kid, but after some terrible performances, I tend to see/hear him talking about how hes the fastest player at arsenal, or start talking about how the side as a whole needs to improve or can win the league. I know this doesnt make him a terribly arrogant lad, and hes really not, but I wouldnt call him particularly down to earth either. He has done a couple of amazing things in his career, so there is a lot of hype behind him, and he has a massive contract already. It would go to anyone’s head, and I think it has with theo. Not to the extent that he’s an arrogant person, but my impression is that he thinks hes better than he is. He’s bound to.
    “Nobody is getting carried away with his hat-trick” – are you sure? I’ve seen it written plenty of times that theo has proven his doubters wrong with this performance. I know that isn’t your stance, but it seems to be a common one, nonetheless.
    On the contrary to your belief that theo gets unwarranted criticism, my personal problem with theo is the favouritism in fact. He was thrown into the first team when he was no-where near ready, has since been incredibly unreliable his whole arsenal career for someone considered a 1st team player, and was given a 60k pw contract before he’d put together three good performances in a row. Honestly, I cant imagine this sort of thing would be tolerated by the fans for anyone else. Eboue has always been a better player than theo imo. There are certain games where theo is more effective, but I know which Id rather have up against ashley cole or evra frankly, yet when eboue failed to adapt quickly to the new position, he was booed; but theo had been as bad or worse than eboue the whole time. I know you’ll give me something about theo’s attitude being great, but his play on the pitch until very recently has been unbarably selfish on the whole. Carlos vela barely had a chance last season, but still with his one goal probably had a far better goals:minutes ratio than theo despite having no time to adapt ot his team-mates etc, and yet vela was attacked on the blogs by many fans last season, and it still looks like he will gets few opportunities this season (he should have started against blackpool instead of theo imo). Walcott has had so many opportunities but hasnt shown the consistency yet, and its time someone else had a chance. Of course now he will ahve another run of matches and my prediction is that he will once again descend into mediocrity. I will be glad if im wrong, because he can be a devastating player, as he showed, but I see no reason for optimism.

    Milner was one of england’s better players in the WC imo by the way, put in a lot of decent crosses and worked hard. I really cant imagine theo playing better than that. He wasnt taken because he didnt deserve to, as you said. Imo man city’s johnson was a better bet than theo and perhaps should have gone ahead of wright-phillips..

  8. First of all i must say congrats to theo because he has been deserves it based on the critisims that have been hurled at him. If the lad does well then praise him and people must understand the nature of the business so if he does bad then expect to get some trashing.
    I.v been critical of theo in the past one reason is because i think the media in england create so much pressure on the players too soon branding them world class when they have’t done a dam thing look at wilshire the media are as distructive as well as informative and the english players seem not to be able to deal with the demands
    Look at pennant he was to be a super star never materialized.
    The other thing is people keep saying theo has 10 years ahead of him he’s 21 now and must start to be consistent he is at an age where modern footballer start to show how great a player they will become so if we go every year to say he will do better next year whats the point he has been at arsenal long enough no more excuses
    case in point [ I know i might get bashed for this but what the hell ]
    Robin Percy: Has been at arsenal a long time now exactly (6) seasons now he has had injury problem for sure one can only guess if he did not have does problems how good he might be, don’t get me wrong he is a good player, but that it and he played with the greats of 2004/05 cesc came after vanpercy and i can safely cesc has developed into a world class player. I read some where recently where people in holland were were analyzing the dutch world cup team the only question mark everyone had was over vanpercy most think that there are better striker available to holland then him very interesting
    I want theo to be theo not henry because henry was special theo does not have the skill as henry did and that the difference. Theo you must start to be consistent thats the only way to prove who you are other wise you will get flack but i think your thicked skined so no hard feelings……………

  9. Great article thanks.
    In my opinion Theo is a cracking little player. At his age he’s doing really well, learning the game & showing glimpses of his potential.
    Not only blackpool but Barcelona & away to croatia show the possabilities.
    The guy is a real talent & will be a world class player. Give him time!!!

  10. Theo is simply amazing! every player gets their downs due to injury and fatigue. But some twats simply choose to hate on Theo. He was not even involved in the WC, but you’re still yappin’ about how He was not fit or good enough for the WC. What’s the justification for that? England got whopped anyway and Theo was not the cause.
    Everyone thought Rooney would score a “netful” of goals but he disappointed big time at the WC nobody talks about it now. So just because Theo is soft spoken you guys chose to pick on him. Are you afraid that Rooney might punch you in the nose?
    Let the young kid enjoy his football! If you’re so bitter about him, go don an England or Arsenal shirt,better still, play against him and outdo him with your feet not your mouth!!!

  11. Lol – are people not “getting carried away” with the hattrick? This is the proof!
    Hes a “cracking little player” on 60k pw before hes even played well for a run of games!
    I dont hate the guy, but he receives blatant favouritism from fans and particularly wenger. We have other players who deserve opportunities. We lost merida in part because of this kid, and vela could be next. Wilshere could have played games for us last season as well, but all the chances went to theo. Eboue started the season on great form, but lost his place simply cos this golden boy regained fitness. Then eboue started playing again about 4 months later and everyone was shocked that he could play that well. He was doing that in October and could have stayed on fire all season but he lost his place to theo who did NOTHING! And a lucky goal against barca doesnt count. Keita shut him down after that goal as well.

  12. Davi I think your taking to much room up on these comments. Theo was ASKED a question relating to the speed of arsenals players and who was quickest etc. So what did theo do….he bloody well answered it didn’t he. He didn’t just out the blue in a press conferance saying im the fastest, i can do this and that. Theo is very much down to earth, especially comparing him to the majority of pro footballers. Althouogh theo ican be fantastic and infuriating in the same attack theres no point getting on his back. Sometimes he gets favoured by Wenger but any favoutism is outweighed getting slagged off by the tabloids for not being class week in week out whilst playing in a relatively new position (only ever been a CF)Personally I think that the main attributes he had/has are pace and finishing, even whilst at scum before he joined. I think his main improvement is that he is not scared to shoot or do what he thinks is best, for his fist 2 years or so at ARsenal he was always looking for the pass even when the best option was to shoot. This is because he was a less senior player and was always looking for RvP or Cesc, the same happens with England as he thinks ‘s**t better pass to him its Fat Lampard or S Gerrard’. Now he has grown the balls to do it himself. Im knackered now, that was alot of typing.

  13. Villa fan in peace – love the article. I recently had a debate with a Gunners mate about Theo Walcott and I was probably being a bit Hansen-esque. After a while I realised all I was saying was “yeah, but he’s not as good as _____” – but that really doesn’t matter at all does it. I was thoroughly impressed with Walcott against Blackpool. Not just the goals, but the drive and energy he showed throughout. Nice touches, good decision-making, and the pace. Oh, the pace. One last point, in the defence of Milner. His “going past the full-back” skills aren’t superb but it’s not even his strength. He’s a former winger who’s transitioned to a very effective box-to-box midfielder and if he was given a run in that spot for England maybe he’d show his true talent. Remember, he earned that ridiculous transfer tag playing in the centre of the park.

  14. Thanks again for the response, everyone!

    @ Davi, A few of your points I agree with, however I think people rate Theo Walcott not just because of this performance. I imagine he’d invoke the same response from fans with or without hat-trick heroics against the worst team in the league. I maintain that nobody is getting carried away by this one particular game.

    Theo is probably one of the top five fastest players in the premier league, let alone at Arsenal, and it is a constant reference point for interviewers who seem hell bent on confirming who the quickest players at Arsenal are. He always gets questioned on it and to be fair, it’s his strong point. He is stating a fact that he’s quick, it’s not excusing any poor performance in my opinion. I didn’t detect a shred of ego when he was called up for the world cup squad in 2006, after netting a hat-trick against Croatia in the 2010 qualifiers, or even after this match, let alone when Messi voiced his shock at his England squad exclusion. I know for a fact that I would be the most arrogant human being on the planet if I’d ever achieved any of those things!

    Where as you saw Hansen being provoked by Lineker, I saw Hansen being so harsh that even Lineker stepped in to try and defend Theo. A big time Match of the Day fan, I can’t even think of a single example when the pundits have been so over-the-top critical of a players’ performance after he’s been instrumental in a win, let alone the scorer of a hat-trick. I’m am so easy going that my own girlfriend has to check my pulse to see if I’m still alive at times, I really don’t take offence easily, but that really riled me because it seemed so out of context and unnecessary.

    As for Eboue, I don’t mind him at all, but he displays exactly the same naivety in the final third as Theo can. Only Theo has another tool up his sleeve in that he skins players alive and gets to the byline first every time. For me, Eboue is one of the last non-defensive players I’d like to see pick up the ball on the edge of the box in the heat of an attack. I guess that’s just a difference of opinion. Then again, you can’t criticise people for getting carried away with Theo when you’re lauding Fran Merida, who produced nothing at our club. Granted he didn’t get as much playing time, but I reckon his strength is in the Fabregas position anyway, it’s not Theo’s fault considering Merida could operate on both wings with aplomb, and he’s naturally left footed.

    All I can say is that I much prefer the type of player Theo is than Eboue. It would be easier for Walcott, who at 21 is eclipsed by the bigger talent in the team, to accept passes on the right wing and just focus all his energy into collecting the ball and passing it on to another player. But he doesn’t, he thrashes about down the right wing and I just love seeing it.

  15. @ Davi
    It’s funny how someone can think that Eboue, Veila and merida!!! are better than Walcott. I’m not calling him a cracking little player because of one game but because of the talent and potential that he shows at age 21.
    Last season was unfortunate after being used in the u21s injured his season never really got going & he didn’t get up to it. Wenger played him because he knows when fully fit the guys a cracking little player and can make a difference even in big games.
    Barca, Chelsea cup final, liverpool in CL & Croatia away
    Which other 21 year olds have put in performances like that in such big games?

  16. @Daniel – Fair points. I know we disagree, but just a couple I REALLY disagree with. In terms of dribbling, eboue is FAR more effective than walcott, if this is what you mean by “skins players alive”, I think eboue wins that hands down. Walcott is better off the ball, and is more often played in behind the fullback than eboue, so in that way he can skin defenders, sure.
    And on merida – the kid barely had any chances, but was always good in the carling cup aside from maybe one game, and scored a goal in one of his very few PL matches, from the bench. My point is that he IS very talented as he was one of the top players in his age group, but was given nowhere near the chances theo has been given. And when theo first came into the side he looked completely like a fish out of water, but wenger persisted with him.
    Lee – vela didnt show talent at 20 or however old, where he was fantastic in practically every game he played, albeit in the carling cup, but it ws against PL opposition. He showed pace, awesome finishing, and a team ethic as well as a great deal of skill which frankly theo doesnt possess.

    “Barca, Chelsea cup final, liverpool in CL & Croatia away”. Yes everyone knows. Against barca he was shut down after his lucky goal as well, so that wasnt so spectacular. THe only one of those games where he was good from start to finish was croatia by the way, and now blackpool of course. Anyway, these are great moments, the run against liverpool probably being the stand-out moment, (and I dont know that there is another player in the world who could do that), but the point is he has been SO SO poor in between. WHat’s the point in having a player who can be like maradona only once or twice a season if hes going to be so poor the rest of the time? Why would you persist in playing him, often in big games, and at times even when there are more reliable, consistent players available (eg eboue/rosicky/nasri), when has disappointed SO often.
    Theo needs to be able to maintain a decent level where he still contributes even when hes not setting the world alight. That’s how diaby, nasri and bendtner play as well. They are all capable of spectacular things, just as much as walcott, but it doesnt happen that often. The reason they retain their place is that they are still capable of doing a job. Bendtner can hold the ball up a bit, and set up attacks, diaby can win the ball back and maintain possession pretty well and nasri has brilliant ball retention skills, but theo is very wasteful when off form.
    Diaby has scored goals that are just as spectacular as those mentioned by walcott (that one against villa for example), but he is not defended to the death by most arsenal fans, far from it. Yet he is much more consistent than walcott, much more important to the squad..

  17. Im not going to go into the Theo conversation too much as I agree with the majority of the article anyway. But Hansen is as biased and pathetic as the article suggests. Every time Arsenal are beaten by a team like Stoke, Blackburn, Bolton etc.. Its oh they need to learn how to deal with the physical style of play and dish it back out abit. After 90 minutes in the World Cup final he was desperate for Spain to win despite the fact he originally wanted Holland because of the Dutch’s shocking tackles and roughness, after extra time he was delighted that a phyiscal team had failed against a passing team, hmmmmm.
    Then acting asif he knew more than anyone he laughed off Diego Forlans player of the tournament award as Iniesta “clearly deserved the award”. Iniesta wasnt even Spains best player throughout the overall tournament so stop going with the flow of things you idiot. The BBC seriously needs a few more fresh faces on the Saturday MOTD show as far as I’m concerned. Linekar was trying to defend Theo I thought “picking the right ball 19 times out of 20 is okay though isnt it?” but thats not good enough for Hansen is it. Who I heard in the past week claim Rooneys smash over the bar against Newcastle from 6 yards was due to “lack of fitness”. Its just different standards and principals for different players.

  18. I think the fact that this piece comes straight after a hattrick against a ten man Blackppol is not helpful. Just adds to the hype. Let’s face it the english media are desperate to jump on any young english player as the next big thing – they did it with gerrard, rooney, theo, now its jack wilshire and kieran gibbs who are already internationals before they are regular firt teamers at their club.

    how about a piece on the renaissance of Rosicky? I really love him as a player and he has had the most awful 3 or 4 years with injuries but now looks as strong as ever and he, Fab and Song could form a fantastic midfield.

    and finally, can’t believe the BBEB still have hansen and lawrenson as their experts. two bigger nobs you will never find!

  19. ” I wonder what people thought of Thierry Henry’s ‘footballing brain’ when he was 21? I also wonder how Walcott will react in the next match when after scoring a hat-trick he switches on the television and sees someone announcing that he did well, but will never be a great player?”…..

    Couldn’t have been said any better.. Great Post.

    Give the kid a break

  20. Well put!!! The lad may have some weaknesses in his game but he has talent and it is only a matter of time before he develops into a terrific player.

  21. Davi you said

    “WHat’s the point in having a player who can be like maradona only once or twice a season if hes going to be so poor the rest of the time?”
    ” Anyway, these are great moments, the run against liverpool probably being the stand-out moment, (and I dont know that there is another player in the world who could do that), ”

    We seem to be in agreement that Theo is a special talent. Albeit not consistantly.

    For me and obviously for Wenger and most Arsenal fans we need to nurture that talent, give the young guy the confidence through our backing and give him the games to grow into a consistant performer.
    We know what he’s capable of we just have to play him and let him mature into the player he can be.

  22. If you look closely at Hansen, you will see a scar over his right eye. This was the result of a failed attempt to insert a brain.

  23. I think this year with a full pre-season under his belt, that Theo will have a good season. The down side for me to Theo is that he is a confidence player. If things are going well, he plays well but if they aren’t he is too quick to put his head down. I do think the media in general are quite harsh on Theo and he definitely should have been at the World Cup instead of Shaun Wright Phillips.

    The same thing is going to happen to Jack Wilshere, the way the English media are going on, you would think that he is the answer to all England’s problems!

  24. Great comments,

    Lets get behind Theo and the rest of the Team,

    They deserve it!!!
    If A Hansen had a brain he would be dangerous.



  25. I have a problem with all the excuses that people make for theo he’s young give him a break, thats the nature of the game you can’t survive on potential all your life, hell check germany, spain, brazil, argentina, and even france the youngsters there are fantastic technical players and already world beaters pedro is one ozil, at 19 and 20 players these days, are already top class theo is 21 he had a good preseason good preparation so if this season he flops then what? Next season, Yeh right! every year we say this, it’s the same thing with Arsenal no trophy and every year next year how long can we go like this.
    My thought is if a player spends three years at a club then he must show development especially at a pro level this has been arsenals achilles heel for years the young players are taking too long to develop in a short career some might and some will never develop look at cesc every year he has developed.
    I think the english players have a phobia look at lescott at city a total flop. Teh media should leave wilshire alone cause think he is the best young technical english player around let him grow by 20 he should be great.
    I want walcott to do well because i love arsenal but if after this season we are saying the same thing then give some one else a chance
    By the way we got a defender one more signing the goal keeper keeping my fingers cross……….

  26. You guys can say all you have about Theo, but i believe every one is being so selfish here. The Boy did what he was suppose to do just like all the other players did to win the game. Some people like Hansen, you can blame them because they have to find something to say because they have to say something.

    But i advise him to be fair to our Boy Theo. things have to change. from bad to good, good to bad or sometimes worse and finally best. Give the boy his time to learn from his mistakes.

  27. Okay.. So What if the young Walcott never turns out to be Messi? or Maradona?
    All we need from him is to turn into a Lungdberg or Pires!! Thats all! Get it! Chelsea has no Messi on their squad, you hear them complaining and crying??? You can’t expect to have a Messi on every team, that is just ludacris.. Let the young kid be.. A hat trick is better than what the other England International Wingers have produced combined so far (Joe Cole, Wright-phillips, Aaron Lenon etc…).. and he only played 65 min.. gimme a break with that idiotic BBC analyst!!!
    Walcott be Walcott! thats all .. help the team need for you to be Messi!

  28. @ Kel – It can be difficult for a player to develop every season when the sole tactic the majority of opposition has against you is to bundle you into the floor so that you can never get going on your runs. Theo hasn’t had a full season yet because he’s a fouls magnet and he is subsequently crocked on a regular basis. We have absolutely no idea how he’d be playing now if he had whole seasons to play in the past few years.

  29. @ Dan Brookes thanks again for the article I’m putting your blog in my favourites. I usually just pop into newsnow but getting fed up with all the negativety from some of our so called support and the crap that gets written.
    Look forward to reading future articles

    ps great C L group!!!!

  30. We have great hope on Walcott.But he is not improving yet.His body& goal scoring skill are under par.He may become a good player,but not like a world class great player like Messi or Rooney.

  31. hansen, i hope one day you will eat your vomitt Theo is still young and he has the potential to do better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.