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Eight years of Walcott, but has he been a success?

Theo Walcott 2-0 Gesture v Tottenham

Arsene Wenger signed Theo Walcott on 20th January 2006 and the winger has seen plenty of ups and downs.

Remarkably, it is eight years ago today since Theo Walcott arrived at Arsenal.

The fresh-faced 16-year-old joined from Southampton for an initial fee of £5m and after only half a season in the Saints’ first team.

He had made just 23 senior appearances for the then-Championship club, scoring five goals, but the hype was growing around the winger after he made the final three shortlist for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2005.

But now aged 24, and with 281 Arsenal appearances under his belt, it is fair to say that his career still seems rather unfulfilled.

Currently out injured with the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which will see him miss the 2014 World Cup, Walcott has seen plenty of ups and downs so far.

Arsene Wenger did not play the youngster in his first few months at the club, preferring to let him settle into North London life without the pressure of Premier League matchdays.

Yet bizarrely Sven-Goran Eriksson decided to call up Walcott for England’s 2006 World Cup squad before he had even made his top-flight debut.

Eriksson handed the Stanmore-born youngster his England debut in a pre-tournament friendly against Hungary but he was left on the bench for the tournament itself as England crashed out on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals.

The Swede insisted that his selection was the right move as Walcott would be provided with good tournament experience for the future but as soon as Steve McClaren took over, the winger was back in the Under 21 side.

Wenger began easing Walcott into the Arsenal team in 2006-07, making 32 appearances, although only half of those were in the Premier League and most were from the bench.

But the former Southampton trainee showed his talent with moments of quality such as the goal against Chelsea in the 2007 Carling Cup final and soon became regarded as a key player for the Gunners going forward.

A huge moment in Walcott’s career came in September 2008 when, trusted to start for England by Fabio Capello, he grabbed an audacious hat-trick as the Three Lions thrashed Croatia 4-1 away from home.

At the time it was a remarkable moment, particularly given the significance of the opposition who had denied England the opportunity to play at Euro 2008.

But in retrospect it seems like a false dawn, as Walcott’s international career has stuttered ever since, and he has only scored twice more for England – making his tally five goals from 36 caps.

He was overlooked by Capello for the 2010 World Cup finals, a wound made even more sore now he is set to miss out on Brazil due to injury

Along with his England career, his hot-and-cold Arsenal career has appeared almost symbolic of the Gunners’ struggles over recent seasons.

Without a trophy since 2005, until this season Wenger’s men would flatter to deceive, playing entertaining football but lacking the killer instinct to make the step up to champion level.

Walcott has similarly flattered to deceive, putting in a great performance - like the one in Arsenal’s 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in 2011 - every now and again but lacking the consistency to merit being hailed as one of the best players in the division.

He has suffered an identity crisis, wanting to be deployed as a centre-forward instead of on the wing, and has occasionally impressed when given the opportunity to do so.

But Wenger clearly prefers him out wide, and although he gave Walcott a run in the team through the middle prior to signing his long-awaited new contract last season, it is unlikely his Arsenal future will be as a striker.

Last season Walcott enjoyed his most prolific season in front of goal, grabbing 21 goals in 43 appearances, but Arsenal were never truly in the hunt for a trophy.

Now, as the Gunners finally appear capable of winning once again, Walcott is watching on from the sidelines.

He excelled over the Christmas period, scoring five times in just five matches, before sustaining his season-ending injury in the FA Cup match with Tottenham.

Having missed nearly three months of the season already through an abdominal strain, Walcott will end the 2013/14 campaign with figures of six goals from 18 matches.

So was Walcott’s signing eight years ago a good move by Wenger?

After all this time, it is still difficult to make a definitive call.

Perhaps if Arsenal become champions this season, and Walcott is integrated back into a title-winning side next campaign, we will really be able to see if he is cut out for the very top level.

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