Date: 20th January 2008 at 5:33pm
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I`d like to start with a defence of Theo Walcott as I feel sorry for him. Wenger has come out this week and said that he has made a mistake in playing him out of position on the wing and that he hasn`t reached the potential that he expected him to be. For an 18 year old player trying desperately to become a first team regular, in one of the best teams in the world this is a hammer blow to his already low confidence. It`s like your boss at work saying ‘Alright Chris, You`re a useless piece of crap at your job, but don`t worry, I`m sure you will do better, now go and file those reports for me`. You wouldn`t like that would you? Although many of you will probably admit that you are rubbish at your jobs!

I am a fan of Walcott as I think he has huge potential and I get annoyed when people look at the short term rather than the full long term picture. It`s two years to the day since Theo joined us, in which time the games he has played in, the majority have been sub appearances and last season struggled with injury so these appearances have been very sporadic, which unfortunately seems to have continued into this season. Playing out of position on the wings hasn`t really helped either as I`m sure you are all aware. However all is not lost for our young prodigy. Wenger has hinted he will now play Theo in his proper position as a striker and he showed us what he can do when he played up front against Slavia Prague, although they were pretty awful, he still showed great composure to score and assist two goals and with Van Persie out injured for another 3-4 weeks, I`m sure he will get his chance to show us again. Unlike our other strikers he offers something different. Van Persie is more of a Bergkamp type player as he likes to drop deep and is more of a playmaker, Eduardo is more of a ‘Fox-In -the Box’-type player, where as Adebayor and Bendtner are more the traditional centre forward target man players. Theo however likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender and although Adebayor has tried to do the same this season, he isn’t as natural as Theo is at doing that. Wenger has already said he’s great at timing his runs and he is far quicker than any of the others as we have seen already, so he offers more of the old Henry option which the others don`t in my opinion and having 4 different types of strikers is a great option to have which I`m sure you will agree.

So if Wenger isn`t going to play Walcott as a winger anymore, who is going to play there now? Will he bring somebody else in during the transfer window or is it time for one of our youngsters to shine? Personally I think it will be the latter of the two and I think it will be Kieran Gibbs and Mark Randell with the possibility of Henri Lansbury being the ones to make the step up. Gibbs is probably the most natural winger of the three, but he plays on the Left Wing, and those of you who didn`t see him play against Inter Milan in the Emirates Cup he was fantastic, passing the ball well, showed great pace and came off to a standing ovation. A natural left sided midfielder is what I think the team lacks and he did play at left back for us against Sheffield United in the Carling Cup this season so maybe if Hleb is injured while Eboue is out in the African Nations, Rosicky could switch to the right with Gibbs on the left?

Or maybe it is Randell who comes in on the right. He showed us what he could do when he came in for an ill Theo Walcott in the Carling Cup game against Blackburn He is more of a central midfield player, like Fabregas, but with a bit more pace if memory serves me correctly, but by the looks of things still needs to develop physically, which may take a couple of years before he can effectively challenge for a first team spot. I don`t know much about Henri Lansbury but I did read somewhere he had been likened to Steven Gerrard as a box-to-box player, but we could be getting ahead of ourselves here.
Also we can`t forget Carlos Vela will be coming back from loan next season after getting his Spanish passport and has been causing a stir in La Liga. A lot of people think he will come back and go straight into the first team but, but Wenger will probably do the same as he has done with Walcott and play him on the wing and sporadically, so he can adjust to the English game.

Personally I`d like to see Gibbs make a name for himself in the team as he has been named in the Champions League squad for this season, so if he was to be put into the first team he would still be eligible it, but the rest of this season will be interesting not only in how the title race unfolds for Arsenal, but also how Wenger deals with Walcott and who he decides to play on the right hand side of midfield instead of him. Something that will no doubt annoy the anti-Arsenal brigade, is that all three of the front runners of the youth team to replace Theo are English and have come through the Arsenal academy. I can see this as being just the beginning of many quality English players to come through the Arsenal academy.

Article submitted by Vital Arsenal member, itsupforgrabsnow