Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Time to gooooo: Theoooooo

Admittedly as I write this I am emotionally drained.  I cannot find the words to best surmise my utter horror at watching my Arsenal not only make a meal of a broken and bruised Ipswich, but to somehow contrive to actually lose to them.  And indeed it is true that as a unit, the team just didn't perform as we know they are capable of.  There were moments of the Arsenal we know and love, but these were mere footnotes in an otherwise lamentable display.

I watched with a friend and the brunt of his anger was Arshavin, who again put in another sub-standard performance.  Its been a few months now since I felt that we were watching the beginning of the end of Andrei's Arsenal career.  I'd be surprised if he were still here next season.

I put it to my friend that regardless of how Andrei's Arsenal career concludes, he has actually already served the purpose of his purchase.  In January 2009 we were in serious danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since 1997, an unthinkable prospect when you consider the financial constraints the club works within since leaving Highbury almost five years ago.  Arshavin almost single handedly dragged us from the abyss that is Thursday nights on Channel Five and the miserable land of the Europa League and helped us to secure a top 4 finish.  That contribution probably paid £15m and then a sizeable chunk of interest on top as well.

One only has to look at the farce taking place at Anfield to see where a season out of the Champions League can lead to.

So yes I get frustrated with Andrei just like most other Arsenal fans, but I can never be too angry with him as he will always have a special place in Arsenal's history as being an important purchase at a critical milestone in our quest to go from biggest club in London to biggest club in the world. 

My frustrations, and general outright anger now, relate to a player whose arrival to the club had me very excited because he was well regarded for his age.  The one who would eventually replace the iconic Thierry Henry as the greatest player to ever pull on the famous red & white shirt.

Make no mistake about it, when Theo is a substitute coming on in a game in the 65th minute as teams are tiring, he can be an exceptional introduction.  Yes even a match winner.  His pace scares the life out of defenders and he does display moments of quality finishing in and around the box. 

My problem has been how the club would evolve him from this almost niche category he has managed to box himself into.  The aspirations of everyone around the club must surely have been to move him on from the impact player, to one who starts and influences matches from early on, and is consistent enough to last the 90 minutes. 

Theo joined the club five years ago next week. 

I just don't see how he has evolved into anything like the kind of player he should be at this stage of his career.  His game seems to solely rely on his natural pace, which of course becomes less explosive as the match goes on.  His finishing is still a lot to be desired, it can be described as erratic at times. 

I am mindful of the fact that most Arsenal fans will of course point out that Thierry was 21 when he joined us and didn't show signs of becoming the majestic superstar until 2 years later, but I think it's worth putting this into context.  Thierry joined Arsenal as a winger who was moved into the striker's position and the 2 years he took to truly adapt to his new role were to be expected.

Theo was signed as a winger, but even from the age of 17, he was always being groomed as the heir to Thierry.  He was always being developed with the long term objective of turning this prodigious talent into somebody who could possibly become the greatest player the club has ever had.

With this in mind, I just don't feel that this standard is acceptable for 5 years of development at the club.

So why do so many Arsenal fans defend Theo so passionately?  What has he brought to the club?  What crucial goals has he contributed to our recent history?

I can recall a wonder goal against Chelsea in the 2007 Carling Cup Final at Wembley, but we went on to lose the game, so hardly a significant chapter in our history!

I know he has scored a few, I was at St James' Park earlier this season when he scored 2 goals against Newcastle in a 4-0 win.  Would we still be in the Carling Cup if it weren't for Theo's contribution?  I'm not convinced that we wouldn't be.

So what is it with Theo and this almost unquestionable faith that my fellow Arsenal fans seem to have in him which I just cannot share nor empathise with.

The simple reality is the fans are more patient, forgiving and supportive of Theo because he is English and an England international.  I really don't think that fellow Arsenal fans would be nearly as understanding if Theo had been Greek, or German, or French, or from West Africa.  No indeed I not only don't think it would happen, I know it would not happen.

I accept that this is possibly a consequence of the fact that in recent years Arsenal haven't actually fielded that many English internationals, or indeed players from England.  Well not in the first team anyway.  And as a France fan, I suppose I could be forgiven for not completely showing apathy with Arsenal fans who are England fans. 

I think its time we put our international allegiances aside and tell it how it is: Theo Walcott is not good enough to represent Arsenal Football Club.  If you disagree, ask yourself this question and answer honestly: would you still maintain this stance if he were a Slovenian international?

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