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Is injury-prone Theo Walcott in danger of morphing into another Abou Diaby?

We put the Arsenal player under the microscope with a fancy interactive graphic...

by Ben | April 17, 2015

Theo Walcott is a player who divides opinion. Previously described by Chris Waddle as a player lacking “a football brain” Walcott still gets picked for his club and national squads the moment he appears somewhere close to full fitness. At times a devastating impact player and (as his goal in the 2015 FA Cup final showed) at times a fine finisher, questions still remain over his best position despite it being a staggering nine years since he joined Arsenal.

Now, whether or not you trust the opinion of a man who once sported the type of mullet even Pat Sharpe would have considered a little bit shit, and a bloke who once thought it would be a great career move to release a duet with Glenn Hoddle, is another matter, but it’s hard to deny that Walcott rarely looks like the most natural of footballers.

Theo Walcott

When you talk to Arsenal supporters about Walcott, one phrase that regularly crops up is that he is a player who “just needs a run of games” – as though that next couple of games would suddenly see him transformed into the bastard offspring of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp – yet since joining Arsenal in 2006 he has only ever completed three or more, 90-minute matches in a row on four occasions:

  • The first, a four-game run at the end of the 2007/08 season
  • The second, an eight-game run in the middle of the 2012/13 season
  • The third, the final four games of the same season
  • Three consecutive games in the middle of last season against Manchester City, Chelsea and West Ham

To give that statistic some context:

Since Theo joined the first team squad in 2006, Arsenal have played 500 competitive matches. Walcott has only had a “decent run of games” on four occasions.

The interactive below shows every single Arsenal match since the start of the 2006/07 season, and Walcott’s involvement – or in most cases, the reasons behind his absence.  Hover over the squares for more detail on the opposition and the part Theo played.


full match completed
no part played
subbed off
subbed on
2006/07 - 1,401 mins played out of a possible 5,606
25%
2007/08 - 2,117 mins played out of a possible 5,482
39%
2008/09 - 2,205 mins played out of a possible 5,746
38%
2009/10 - 1,469 mins played out of a possible 5,170
28%
2010/11 - 2,273 mins played out of a possible 5,388
42%
2011/12 - 3,498 mins played out of a possible 5,076
69%
2012/13 - 2,990 mins played out of a possible 4,948
60%
2013/14 - 1,202 mins played out of a possible 5,354
22%
2014/15 - 798 mins played out of a possible 5,294
15%
Arsenal career - played 17,953 mins out of a possible 48,082
37.3%

His total minutes played figure makes for grim reading too: Since the start of the 2006/07 season, Arsenal have played over 48,000 minutes of football.  Walcott has appeared in fewer than 18,000 of them – just 37.3% to be precise. He’s only played more than 50% of minutes in two of the nine seasons, and last season, Walcott failed to complete a full 90 minutes in any of the 56 matches Arsenal played.   In comparison, last season Alexis Sanchez played 89% of all Arsenal’s minutes, and over the course of his Arsenal career, Santi Cazorla is has been on the pitch an astonishing 79% of the time.

As Walcott’s contract renewal rolls around once again, and his agent argues for a significant bump to his reported £70,000 per week contract, Arsenal supporters, officials and especially medical staff need to ask themselves a few tough questions:

  • Is Theo Walcott’s body ever going to stand up to the stresses and strains of a full Premier League season?
  • In the limited number of minutes that he has played, has Walcott shown enough to justify a new contract?
  • Is it worth persevering with damaged player about whom there are still questions about both his ability, and best position, or would Arsenal be better off cutting their losses, cashing in and strengthening their squad in other areas?

Arsene-Wenger-840

The Arsenal of 2015/16 are a different beast to the club Walcott joined back in 2006. They’re a leaner, meaner, better-equipped team than before and gone are the frugal, penny-pinching days when 4th place in the league was enough.

As a club they no longer need to show loyalty to unfortunate, injury-prone, “bright young things” in the hope that their faith will one day be repaid and they’ll see a return on their investment. The aforementioned Diaby is the perfect example of a player that few other clubs in the world would have ever shown the same loyalty as Arsenal have, but it finally looks as though his days at the the Emirates are numbered and the only reminder of him will soon be his buttock-shaped imprint on the physio’s table.

Walcott is in serious danger of falling into the same category – a player with massive potential who never stays fit for long enough to either justify his position in the squad or prove once and for all that Waddle was correct and he simply doesn’t possess sufficient quality to play for team challenging for titles.

  • Get stuck into the latest Arsenal odds for the league, cup and everything else here: Desktop | Mobile 

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