Walcott delivers another cameo against Everton, but he should consider leaving despite their recent success to fulfil his own personal ambition?
Walcott is now Arsenal’s most used substitute. His cameo against Roberto Martinez’s side was the 65th time he has come on from the bench in almost eight years at the Emirates.
Having returned from a two-month injury lay-off, Walcott said he is determined to hold down his place in the Arsenal side as they go for the Premier League title, and in turn earn his place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
It is an admirable determination, but Walcott may find it a hard task to make his presence felt in an Arsenal side in which almost every first-team player is impressing.
The draw with Everton was a prime example. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil are virtually un-droppable, and the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the New Year will only add competition on the wings. Santi Cazorla, who was the player to make way for Walcott, looks the most likely figure to drop out of the side should Wenger hand Walcott a run of games.
But Cazorla has made 17 appearances so far this season and the manager seems to have little intention of dropping the Spaniard, so Walcott’s path appears to be barred.
Wenger could, of course, grant Walcott his wish of playing through the middle, an alternative for Olivier Giroud, and a position he occupied for a period last season.
“I bounced back from the disappointment of 2010 (when he was omitted from Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad) with a very good season for Arsenal, and then last season I finished as top-scorer which was a massive personal achievement,” says Walcott.
Walcott has made no secret of his desire to play as a striker. Yet Wenger continues to harbour doubts over Walcott’s ability to hold the ball up and his all-round strength on the ball, and it should be remembered that he has never scored a headed goal.
Walcott points out: “I definitely could play the one up front because of the amount of combination work the midfielders do, I would stretch teams as well.”
But it is that last point which is the crux of the problem for Walcott. His speed is by far his greatest attribute, and in that sense he remains the epitome of an impact sub, whether he is playing on the wing or at the head of Arsenal’s attack.
He must finally shake off that tag of super-sub if he is to take the next step in his career.
There is no suggestion that Walcott is unhappy at Arsenal, but should he be? At 24 he is approaching the prime age of a Premier League footballer. However impressive they are, for how long will he be content with cameo roles from the bench?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald