29 October 2014

Walcott set to make his return against Burnley...

Let's make one thing clear from the get-go: Burnley are on one hand precisely the kind of banana-peel you'd expect Arsenal to slip on. They're winless to date, and they've scored the fewest goals while conceding the most in the Prem. Their away-record is even worse. At home, they've at least earned a couple of draws. Away from Turf Moor, they're winless and toothless, having scored but one while conceding 12 in four matches. It seems almost unfair, therefore, to unleash against them one of our most fearsome players, one who might be working his way back from injury but who is chomping at the bit: Theo Walcott.

On one hand, we shouldn't expect too much of the man. Yes, he played well two weeks ago against Blackburn's u21s, but that was a mere 45 minutes against a squad full of teens. It's quite another task to step into the Prem, even against a starry-eyed, newly-promoted lot such as Burnley, and deliver the goods. On the other, this might be the perfect run-out for Walcott. It's one thing to go from facing Blackburn u21s to facing, say, Man U or Liverpool. At the risk of slighting the Clarets, the leap from Blackburn to Burnley is not quite as large. As such, we might have a chance to see Walcott turn in a few trademark runs and tidy finishes against a side that has already leaked 16 goals worst in the Prem to date.

Arsène has all but attested to the fact that Walcott will shine on Saturday, saying the following:
I don’t know if Theo will play against Burnley. We dropped points at home unexpectedly against Hull and that¹s why we have to focus on winning the Burnley game before I can plan giving Theo some competition.
For those not well-versed in Arsènese, you essentially need a card similar to the one that Homer Simpson carries, the one that states, "always do the opposite of what Bart says." In other words, if Arsène claims that he doesn't know whether Theo will play against Burnley, it's a virtual guarantee that Theo will play against Burnley. I'm not claiming that he'll feature; I'm merely suggesting that Arsène  has a record of obstinately obsfuscating the truth, and we'd do well to expect the opposite of what he says. Therefore, at some point and to some degree, Theo will play on Saturday. Maybe it will be a half, maybe it will be a 70th minute sub. We don't know. If Theo's tweets are any indication, he'll be on the pitch for some portion of the proceedings.
Of course, that falls something short of a promise, but it's tantalizing all the same. A front line of Alexis, Welbeck, and Walcott could eviscerate the sturdiest of defenses, and, to put it mildly, Burnley's defense isn't among them. Yes, we may rue the absence of Özil and be left wondering what kind of service he might provide to such pacey attackers, but that's another dream for another day. For now, content yourself with the notion that Walcott may prowl the right flank, and that the service on offer from the likes of Cazorla, Alexis, or Ramsey might be just enough for him to wet his whistle on Saturday.

Whether he's on the pitch for 15, 45, or all 90, it will be invigorating to have him back in the squad. His return to the Prem can't come soon enough.


  1. God I can't wait to see him come back---but I reckon it'll only be a short stint, something like 20-25 minutes. We shouldn't need him against the likes of Burnley so there's no sense rushing him back. Let him get his legs back under him before a full runout!

  2. If Burnley are expected to be such a soft touch then this precisely the perfect opportunity to play Theo. There would be less need to score and play at full bore for any period. He needs more than getting his legs going which could be done in training. He needs to regain the timing under duress that only real game situations can provide. I would rather have him eased into the tougher matches upcoming than to throw him into the intense situations without having experienced the pressure that does not exist in training.

    I would doubt that he would play more than 45 to 60 minutes. However, everyone assumes that Burnley will roll over upon seeing Arsenal show up. That may not happen because as we have seen Arsenal is not finding any easy matches anymore. Hopefully, Arsene does not decide that he will bring Theo in once the match is secure, because he might never be played. It would be better to start him and to see what he can do from the start.

  3. Ease him, maybe even after we've gone ahead (cough). It's not worth straining him any further even if our attack has looked so inept without him. For what it's worth, I'd expect Burnley to sit back and play for a draw, reducing the space behind that Walcott could hope to exploit. If we can get an early goal, this might force them to try to get forward, opening things up for Walcott to run into later in the game.


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