Tribute to Theo Walcott – Speed, Class, Composure
Theo Walcott came into the spotlight when he, 17, was named in Sven Goran Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad for England, even though he didn’t feature in the mundial. Walcott was literally in dreamland because four months prior, he made a move to Arsenal from Southampton as a 16-year-old, for a fee of £5 million, rising to £12 million depending on appearances for club and country.
As Walcott advanced in years, he continued to grow in influence at the club, and he had a good debut, setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva in Arsenal’s first competitive game at the Emirates Stadium. His first Arsenal goal was a memorable one, using his blistering pace to great effect in the 2007 Carling Cup final but the game was marred by Didier Drogba’s brace and the horrific incident involving Abou Diaby kicking John Terry in his face, knocking him unconscious. There was also the altercation that saw three players get sent off.
The 2007/08 season was big for Arsenal, as the Gunners challenged for the Premier League title and stayed in pole position for a considerable chunk of the campaign. Even if Wenger had his midfield fantastic four – captain, Cesc Fabregas, enforcer, Mathieu Flamini and inside forwards – Tomas Rosicky and Aliaksandr Hleb, Walcott contributed in the Premier League campaign, scoring four goals in 25 appearances. However in that campaign, Walcott earned plaudits for his amazing slalom run in the Champions League, that saw him take on six Liverpool players before squaring the ball to Emmanuel Adebayor for a tap in.
At the start of the 2008/09 season, Walcott changed his jersey number from 32 to 14, previously worn by his idol, Thierry Henry, and established himself as the club’s primary right winger, following the transfer of Hleb to Barcelona. However, he suffered a litany of injuries and his form and fitness started to dwindle.
The 2012/13 season will always stand out for Walcott as he achieved his personal best of 21 goals in a single campaign but injuries have been one of the biggest thorns in Walcott’s flesh and Arsenal fans feared for the worst when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined him for up to a year.
It hasn’t always been peachy and creamy with Walcott though. Off the pitch, his contractual issue was a pain in the arse for the Gunners and there was a collective sigh of relief when he put pen to paper. On the pitch, especially on his return from his long term injury, there were loads of games when Walcott became so anonymous, that you tend to wonder if he was selected at all. There was a particular game against Stoke that served as a harsh reminder of that, where Alex Iwobi probably had more touches in the 15 minutes he played than Walcott in 75, and you see the impact the young Nigerian tried to make in the little time he was allotted on the pitch.
But that’s the Theo Walcott we have come to know – brilliant on some days, pretty much anonymous on others, but we loved him nonetheless. He had a penchant for breaking through defensive lines, curling in some Thierry Henry-esque finishes from the edge of the area, and hitting some drilled low drives from the right. That awesome finish in the 5-3 win over Chelsea in Stamford Bridge comes to mind.
In terms of silverware, he was injured when Arsenal ended their trophy drought against Hull in 2014, but he scored the opening goal, playing as a center forward when Arsenal thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 in the following campaign. When the Gunners beat Chelsea in the 2017 FA Cup in Wembley, Walcott was an unused substitute.
After 397 appearances and 108 goals in 12 seasons with Arsenal, Walcott moved to Everton in January 2018 in a deal worth around £20 million and made 85 appearances for the Toffees across three seasons, scoring 11 goals. He then closed things out with a second spell at Southampton for whom he scored his final professional goal against Arsenal.
It’s crazy to know that his final goal in his last spell with Southampton was in the shocking 3-3 draw with the club in the business end of last season, after receiving a neat pass from Carlos Alcaraz, running in behind Gabriel to smash it past Aaron Ramsdale.
On the international scene, Walcott hit the back pages when Sven Goran Eriksson took him to 2006 World Cup in Germany but was a surprise omission in 2010 World Cup, especially after he scored a scintillating hat-trick in the qualifier against Croatia. He got his first stint of an international tournament with his nation when he was selected for Euro 2012 and he made an impact in England’s 3-2 win over Sweden where he leveled the tie at 2-2 before providing an assist for Danny Welbeck.
With England being one of the first teams to qualify for the 2016 European Championships, Walcott played his part with three goals in the qualifiers, taking his overall tally for his nation to eight goals in 47 appearances.
Theo Walcott has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 34. In total, he made 564 appearances for Southampton, Arsenal and Everton scoring 129 goals.
I wish Walcott the best in his future endeavors and I thank him for the fond memories.
Here’s to Theo Walcott, speed, class, composure.
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