Should Theo Walcott Start in the F.A. Cup Final For Arsenal FC?


The final day of the Premier League season brought with it the usual excitement and unpredictability we’ve come to expect over the last number of years. There were two teams fighting to avoid relegation in different grounds, and sadly for Hull City it was they who slipped into England’s second tier.

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There was also the nearly annual matter of the shock result of the day, and it arrived in the form of Stoke’s 6-1 trouncing of Liverpool. That it was Steven Gerrard’s last game for the club, only added to the disbelief.

So with all of this going on around the country, it was easy to overlook events at The Emirates Stadium. This too was understandable, in a game in which both teams had nothing to play for, Arsenal FC beat West Bromwich Albion 4-1. A neat scoreline for sure, but nothing to get too excited about.

Then you look at the score sheet and see that Theo Walcott scored a first half hat-trick of real quality, and it makes you think, should Walcott actually start up front in this weekend’s F.A. Cup Final?

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  • Walcott has always had the backing of the vast majority of Arsenal fans, despite his array of pedestrian performances for the club (If you’re asking me personally, he’s been overrated for years now, and I would gladly see Raheem Sterling take his position in the team.

    More than that, I wouldn’t be overly concerned if he left and there was nobody brought in to replace him either). But for now he remains an Arsenal player, and Sunday’s performance was a timely reminder of what he can do when at his best.

    Straight from kick off, his pace frightened and stretched Albion’s defenders, to the point where his decoy runs alone were creating heaps of space for the rest of the team. Why is this space so important?

    Well for Arsenal in particular, and the wonderful technicians they boast, they are at their best when they have plenty of space in front of them. His first goal was superbly taken, while his second required the skill and guile to squirm free in the box when the ball broke his way.

    Prior to that game, The Gunners had failed to score in their previous three home games, a statistic almost unheard of around those parts. Sure Oliver Giroud was doing all that he could, but the big target man looked tired. Indeed, he was probably given a rest in this ultimately meaningless fixture so as to have him in the best condition possible for the cup final against Aston Villa.

    So this is not about Giroud. He has been great for the team as a lone striker, hassling defenders and scoring at an above average rate as well. He finished the season tied sixth in the league in goals scored with 14. He’s been consistently on form for this team for large periods, and it is not on his shoulders alone that the team failed to find the back of the net in previous outings.

    But Walcott’s talents as a striker are vastly different to Giroud’s. It may be almost a sin to compare him to Thierry Henry, but he does have the same blistering pace as his predecessor. He can also make the case that both injury and playing on the wing have hampered his potential to truly thrive as an out and out striker.

    All valid points, but Walcott has been given his chance before up front, and turned in the kind of frustrating performances that break your heart when you witness him play a near flawless game like Sunday’s.

    Too often the Englishman has been accused of doing everything right, before fluffing his lines in front of goal. He’s capable of beating players, and of scoring goals too. It’s just that those complete games, those 90 minutes when it all comes together in a stylish and sexy package of total attacking play, are so few and far between that it leaves you scratching your head.

    So you see that’s the risk here. There is zero guarantee that the Walcott who turned up against West Brom will be seen again for another 10 games, maybe more.

    That buzzing hub of attacking verve, the guy who makes it that much easier for his teammates, he may not show up on the big day. As Arsenal found out last season when they found themselves 2-0 against Hull in the final, fast starts are crucial here, anything can happen on the day.

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    With Giroud presumably rested and ready to go, the team will know what they’re getting. Yes the ball sometimes sticks to him and he doesn’t create the space for others that a quicker player would. But he holds up the ball brilliantly, allowing the creative players to fly around him in a solar system that has brought the club much joy this season.

    So do you stick with the tried and tested, but recently stumbling, abilities of Giroud? Or is Walcott’s pace and unpredictability the order of the day? Remember, Daniel Welbeck was brought to the team to be that spritely attacking force to counteract the combative style of Giroud.

    Like so many Arsenal players down through the years, both injuries and bad form have combined to hurt his chances of breaking into the starting 11. No matter though, as Walcott for now looks like the guy they envisioned Welbeck being, only better.

    As a skeptic of all that Walcott can do on a consistent basis, I’m going to stick with Giroud for this one. The team is familiar with his style of play, and he offers something different at set pieces. He’s a route one kind of striker, and the type Arsenal haven’t truly had since Emmanuel Adebayor was at the club.

    Besides, if the game is tied going into the last 20 minutes, who better than a speed demon who recently scored a hat-trick to come on and run the weary defenders ragged. It was a great individual performance from Walcott, but unfortunately it came a little too late in the season to influence the team selection ahead of the F.A. Cup Final.

    Next: How Liverpool Can Challenge for Title