Since regaining his full time starter status, Theo Walcott has been playing like a man with something to prove. In the United States they usually call it a contract year, and it looks Walcott, also getting to play as a striker instead of the right winger most of the time, is showing Arsenal and Arsene Wenger it might be wise to get the negotiations over with.
Over the last seven matches, Arsenal have won 4, drawn twice and lost once during a weird afternoon at home against Swansea. With Walcott as the new target man, the record isn’t exactly worth of a Premier League title, but it’s better than it was before, especially as the Gunners have won their last three matches and Walcott has scored six goals on his last six matches.
The book on the 23 year old forward says not to give him space, and Walcott won’t be able to do anything. Newcastle’s defense doesn’t resemble anything this season, conceding 37 goals through the first 20 matches, and looked more of a mess than ever conceding 7 goals in the 7-3 loss, including four in the final 18 minutes.
Walcott has never looked this good as a finisher. There were plenty of bad decisions, some of them selfish and some of them of poor execution quality in the earlier minutes, but when it came to finishing with his right foot, Walcott actually reminded people with his class and composure of the club’s greatest player in history, Thierry Henry.
It’s still unclear if Henry will be arriving for a couple of months on a loan deal from the MLS, but the rumors of Walcott working out with the former Arsenal legend seem to be true, at least based on Walcott’s recent ability in front of goal. He misses a lot of things you’d want from your target man, and from a team playing with just one striker you need more than the ability to run into space and be calm in front of goal.
Olivier Giroud is the other half of that equation. A tall, big, physical presence in the box, who actually shows some scoring skills when given enough space. Not the man to carry Arsenal on his shoulders, but the right kind of player for certain situations, and he did very well, actually scoring a brace, after coming on from the bench. It seems the Frenchman has been almost forgotten over the last 4-5 weeks, but he’s here to prove he’s not the next Marouane Chamakh for this side.
The defending was still terrible from Arsenal. If one goal was pure luck, as Jack Wilshere made a pathetic attempt of hiding away from the ball during a free kick, the other two goals were pure incompetence. Once by Wilshere again and the other by Kieran Gibbs, losing Demba Ba who to score the third equalizer.
And if Walcott is not enough for Arsenal to take from this match, it’s the fact that the goals and the fun football is back. Scoring 13 goals in three matches might be more due to Reading and Newcastle, but there’s still some flair in this team, instead of the dull, depressing version we saw all through November. Not enough for a title, but deserving enough of a Champions League place, if they manage to keep Walcott happy.