By Graham McNorthbank
I’ve had a fair share of stick over the years for my belief that Theo Walcott is never going to make it at the top level.
I’ve heard it all.
Some say we have to give him time to grow and learn his trade, to which I say that if you play for Arsenal, you shouldn’t be so underdeveloped if you’re going to get regular appearances in the first team.
Some say you only have to look at his runs at Liverpool both in the Champions League two seasons ago or last season in the 4-4, not to mention his England hat-trick (as if I care) to see what he can do.
My response is that those are rare instances of brilliance in an otherwise modest career so far.
The truth is that as a young, fast player who has already been recognised at international level, the real reason we’ve been so patient with him is because he represents home grown talent, even if we took advantage of Southampton’s parlous finances to sign him up on the cheap.
Notwithstanding the fact that he has been injured for so long, can we really give him much longer to prove himself?
Even the Nike ad ('Fast isn't enough' which is ironic) that he stars in is at an empty stadium and doesn’t show him scoring – they know not to insult the intelligence of the public too much.
Someone said in the comments last week that we can’t truly judge the likes of Carlos Vela until he has had a run of five to ten games starting in the side, and there may be some truth to that.
The same could be said of Theo now, but I agree with one of the pundits on the BBC recently who said that Theo is at his most dangerous when he doesn’t have time to think.
Ask him to use a footballing brain, and you’re going to be disappointed.
Does Vela have a much better chance of making an impact in the first team? I suspect so but we’ll never know until Wenger takes a punt on him.
You only have to look at how Jack Wilshere performs as well to see that his intelligence and awareness already mark him out as far better a prospect than Theo.
My fellow Addict Avenell Dave said to me today that if we sell Theo (which I accept is highly unlikely), he will probably go on and become outstanding somewhere else.
I have my doubts.
I suspect Theo is more likely to become the next Francis Jeffers than Andy Cole.