It started with his first ever goal for Arsenal. At just 17, Theo Walcott scored against Chelsea at the Millenium Stadium in the 2007 League Cup final.
Current team-mate Petr Čech was in goal for the Blues, and it wasn’t the last time Walcott would beat him. A clinical finisher, Theo is something people cry out for every year: a big game player.
What exactly does that mean? Well it’s hardly quantifiable, but Walcott doesn’t seem fazed by the big occasion. His best goals and his best performances seem to come when Arsenal need him the most, they come when it means the most.
Theo has just three Premier League goals this season. it should’ve been more but, and it’s unlike him, he’s missed a lot of good chances. Nonetheless, the goals he has scored have been vital. Of his three strikes, one was the opener against Manchester City and one was an equaliser against Leicester City. Theo Walcott, just as he always has, is delivering when Arsenal need him to.
That League Cup final goal was a big one, for obvious reasons. He’s since scored four more against the Blues. It doesn’t seem like many, especially considering he’s played 14 games versus our London rivals, but let’s break it down.
Theo Walcott has scored five goals against Chelsea in 14 appearances, but he’s only averaged 64.5 minutes on the pitch (903 minutes in total). On top of that, half of his Arsenal appearances (and 464 – over half – of the minutes he’s played) against Chelsea came before he even turned 22.
His five goals against Chelsea have been:
- The opener in a League Cup final
- The opener an FA Cup semi-final
- Third goal a 3-1 win (where he also assisted to make it 2-0)
- In a 2-1 defeat when we were 2-0 down
- A ‘go-ahead’ goal in a 5-3 win
Theo Walcott averages a goal every 180 minutes against a Chelsea side which has, over the last decade, been renowned for the strength of its defence. When Arsenal have needed someone to turn to in this fixture in recent seasons, after Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie, it has been Walcott.
He has many critics – and many of the criticisms of him are fair – but you get the sense he will be vital if Arsenal are to beat Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, Arsène Wenger certainly seems to believe so. He’s expected to start on the left wing again, where he has had trouble with his movement as it’s a little predictable. He did manage to hurt Manchester City from the position though, and I’d back him to do the same against Chelsea.
Even better, Alexis Sánchez could feature and Walcott could play up front or on the right for some of the game. Please Theo, do it again.