This season has been strange for Theo Walcott in more than one ways. It was always going to be tough for him to get back to full fitness and into Wenger’s scheme of things right away. The rise of Chamberlain to prominence coupled with the fact that the Gaffer relied on a more cautious 4-1-4-1 formation for much of the the season.
Indeed, the usually “at their opponents” Arsenal have shown a different side, that they can defend as a team when needed. Much of that can be attributed to the emergence of Francis Coquelin in the heart of midfield and has been the one to take it upon himself to do the dirty work in the middle of the park which his more decorated colleagues would rather leave to chance.
But where does that leave Theo and should he start the FA Cup final against Aston Villa. His quality has never been in doubt, as we saw last week against Albion, that he can destroy a team with his pace and guile on his day. However, the problem with picking him ahead of someone like a Ramsey or an Ox or even a Danny Welbeck is that you leave your full back with too much to do simply because he doesn’t have the work rate that any of these players possess.
As much as Arsene Wenger would like us to believe that his decision to introduce Theo mainly as an impact sub for most of the season was to give him a chance to build his fitness up after that horrific injury last season, it is pretty obvious that the French manager isn’t too comfortable with the thought of having young Bellerin behind someone who may not be able to give much of a helping hand.
So what does Theo bring to the table individually? Electric pace, perfectly timed and intelligent runs behind the back four and finishing, something he has greatly improved over the past few seasons which are some of the qualities that may come in handy against an Aston Villa side who will look to sit back and absorb all the pressure that Arsenal are able to put on them and try to make something happen on counters, as opposed to having a static linkman in Giroud trying to create spaces for his colleagues in what will be a crowded Villa penalty box.
But the question remains, will Wenger get swayed by last weekend’s performance and hand him a start ahead of a recently out of touch but usually reliable Giroud, specially when Giroud has been the one to carry the goal scoring burden of the team along with Sanchez throughout the season? Or will he bet on his fellow Frenchman to come good one last time in what has been a breakthrough season for him at the club?
Or should Walcott be started on the wings? We’ll get to know soon enough.