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Arsenal’s Strike-Force Options: Walcott’s Time To Shine?

Arsenal’s bid for a Premier League title next year will depend heavily on finding a reliable goalscorer. Olivier Giroud, most the most prominent of Arsenal’s strike-force options for the last few years, has seemed like a player who can guarantee goals. 19 goals in all competitions last season was certainly a respectable tally, but the question remains whether Giroud alone can produce enough goals for a Premier League-winning side.

Towards the end of the season just gone by, up stepped Theo Walcott, the fast and phenomenally talented 26-year-old. His future remains unclear: 12 months left on his contract and a renewal still waiting to be signed means once again Arsenal are in a position of uncertainty surrounding the Englishman’s future. One factor that will certainly play a part is allowing him to play in his much preferred central role, as opposed to being placed out on the wing. For Arsenal and Arsene Wenger there are seemingly three choices: stick with Giroud in the hope he continues to score consistently; splash out on a new striker altogether — perhaps Arsenal fans’ preferred choice, but finding the right man for the job will be difficult; put faith in Theo Walcott in a more central role. Option three is a bold move if followed, but quite possibly has the potential for significant success.

The end of last season proved to be a time for Wenger already to consider these options. West Brom felt what it was like to be on the wrong side of an in-form Theo Walcott, his hat trick taking 33 minutes on the last day of the season. Although some may have felt this game was insignificant and unimportant, for Walcott it meant everything and allowed him an FA Cup start the following weekend. A goal in the FA Cup final meant four goals in his last two games of the season and it showed clearly that Arsenal had missed his spark during his prolonged injury. If injuries can be avoided and a full season in his preferred position allowed, there is no reason why Walcott can’t enjoy every success in an Arsenal shirt next year.

Oliver Giroud also notched a goal in the final, but Wenger’s decision to start Walcott in such an important game may very well have been a clear sign of his future intentions. So option three, although risky, has the potential to work effectively and it is clear Wenger will consider playing him on a regular basis, if the end of last season is anything to go by.

Option two of buying a new striker, despite the promise of Walcott, should certainly still be seriously considered. In the 2003-2004 season Arsenal found footballing perfection: they went the season unbeaten, and won the league at White Hart Lane. Up front were Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp — it simply doesn’t get better than that. Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are all quality players on their day, but do they have enough quality between them to win the league? It’s a difficult to question to answer.

An option that could be considered is playing two forwards, with Giroud’s aerial ability having the potential to compliment Walcott’s pace nicely. Despite this, reallocating positions to fit a new formation like this is an incredibly complex way of dealing with the problem. A new signing up front, whoever he may be, would seem a safe decision to make. However, Wenger won’t want to ignore the fact that Walcott, when on form, could certainly fill the role and save a substantial amount of money.

The sheer pace of a Walcott-Sanchez pairing is considerable too. It’s a nightmare scenario for defenders. Aston Villa found this out in the FA Cup final with both players finding the net. Sanchez had no problem providing goals for Arsenal in his first season and it’s hard to question his ability to do this consistently in the future. Walcott’s consistency could be questioned, with only three out of his nine seasons at Arsenal resulting in ten goals all more in all competitions. Injuries and initially inexperience joining the club as a teenager can account to this to some extent. In the 2012-2013 season more game time helped him along the way to 21 goals and this is the sort of the form necessary to earn a starting place at Arsenal.

Should Walcott start? With his future still in some doubt his contract situation will need sorting out as soon as possible. Once dealt with the longevity of his Arsenal career could be substantial. Given the game time, albeit sporadically, he has proven that he can dominate the central forward role. For Wenger, not to consider signing a new forward would be risky but he can certainly place hope in Walcott next year.

Theo Walcott now enters the peak of his footballing career and it’s easy to forget he still has time on his side. His development may have gone through some rough spots but there is one truth to Walcott’s game — on his day, he is simply unplayable.


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