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Time to let Theo be Theo?
A few weeks ago we asked the rhetorical question “How do you solve a problem like Theo.” The title was a proverbial play on the rancor and furor over some rather innocuous comments Theo made about himself and Thierry Henry.
You remember those right? People were reading it as he was directly comparing himself to Thierry Henry. The incredulity his supposed impertinence was met by was fueled by press and blog headlines say he had compared himself to arguably Arsenal’s greatest player.
The reality was he wasn’t comparing himself to Henry. Just saying the club moved Titi from wing to forward and that’s what Theo wanted for himself to get the opportunity to play up top.
The question now has to be, is it time to make it happen? The clock is ticking on a new deal for the forward who has been one of the Gunners bright spots in a season that has already (this early in) been an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs.
Theo has only managed one start in the league this season. In the 203 league minutes he has accrued he has 2 goals on 5 shots. Given that his average time on the field is about 20 minutes per game it’s not a bad return. Layer in his success up front versus both Reading and Coventry in the Capital One Cup (5 goals) on top of the stuttering Arsenal offense then the formula is right for Theo to get his shot.
Arsene Wenger seems to think so too:
“I always said that he will be a striker, so we are on the same wavelength there,” said the manager.
“First of all he is a good finisher now – the way he scored the first goal. Secondly, I believe he knows where to be in the box on the rebounds. I like that – that’s a quality of a striker that you cannot give to anybody. You feel it or you don’t. He has the qualities to play there and he was superb [on Tuesday night].”
The big question I have is whether or not Arsene is feeding the press a line in light of the difficulties of the season or does he actually believe it. If he believes it then why isn’t the Englishman getting more shots at it?
Is it the contract situation and not wanting to be seen to give in to a player’s “demands?” The comments above and the fact that the club don’t want to lose him seem to contradict that.
Maybe however, it is still a thought that as much as Wenger thinks he has improved and improved his chances to play up front there is still some work to do?
“I always said that it is important that he plays in the right position. He will play through the middle in the future and he showed that again on Tuesday night. He should be more dedicated to offensive work.
Theo has definitely improved his finishing and his decision making. Watch him when he approaches the ball on his finishing. Sophie Niccolau and I were chit-chatting about him and she told me to watch him again and watch him carefully and see who he reminds you have. She was right his approach to the ball when he opens his body is so reminiscent of Henry. I have nothing to go on to prove it but you have to wonder how much Titi’s time on loan last season helped him.
The big unknown though (for all the improvement) seems to be is his physical strength. To play up top leading the attack you need to be able to hold players off not just beat them outright.
Dennis, Henry, and RvP not only had the ability to beat players but they had the strength to outmuscle an opponent and either get their chances on their own or create chances for team mates. Even Olivier Giroud without scoring has shown his strength is one of his greatest assets (if he could only find the back of the net with more consistency.)
Now, part of the problem is until Theo gets the chance to play the role we will never know if he has that strength. So it’s hard to gauge whether he really has that or not. He might but he might not. I look at Theo all the time and think, speed demon. Strength isn’t something that comes popping right into my mind.
As they say though, looks can be deceiving. He does look to have added to his frame in a more toned, muscular way. And there are examples of good strikers out there who don’t necessarily come to mind as strong – Defoe and before he fell off the earth Michael Owen.
If the Reading and Coventry city matches show us anything, Theo’s best stuff comes from the middle. All of his scoring for the most part comes when he is running through a central position. His first against Reading is proof of that, his third – being in the right place at the right time – sort of like, I don’t know, a striker. And his second, well trying not to compare him to Titi but- it was very Henry-esque.
Now take that performance from Reading and have him getting a supply of passes from Cazorla. Using his speed and positioning coming through the middle with that kind of service, you could see more scoring opportunities for the supposed “contract-rebel.” And if you do notice him getting out muscled – you switch up to Giroud.
Finally, Dan Cowan of North London is Red, made this great point, if Gervinho who’s been frustrating and good all in the span of 15 minutes each game, can get time as a false 9 up front, shouldn’t Theo who in my opinion is a better player get that shot, especially now that Gervinho is out for up to 3 weeks (in Arsenal time that’s 9 weeks?)
Obviously, the contract situation needs to get sorted. The club want an answer from him by Christmas it seems.
“There is urgency but how much I don’t know. We will want to sort it out before Christmas, one way or another,” Wenger told a news conference on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t like to [sell him in January]. I still think we will manage to do a deal with him.”
Wenger has come back again saying how much he wants to keep Walcott and simultaneously praised the youngster (sort of) for his attitude through it all.
“That’s what I hope [that he is a striker at Arsenal],” said Wenger. “I always said that I want to keep him. Apart from [the] contract talks, you have to give him credit for the way he is committed for the team and the way he behaves.”
In the end the contract depends on how much both sides can get to agree with each other. It’s clear that they both want to come to some sort of agreement. The question is can they? Can Arsenal let the player play in the position he wants and can Theo accept the financial terms the club has offered and position of club that he has more to do to prove himself. Only time and possibly Father Christmas can tell.
And if you haven’t seen this – you will love it. The hit video urging Theo to “Sign Da Ting”