I didn’t stick my head above the parapet and offer to write this section of our end of season review just so I could slate Theo Walcott.
I swear I didn’t…
We’ve already looked at our:
Any look back at the fortunes of the four men we would all consider our strikers must be framed in the context of Arsenal’s failure to land the big name, worldie striker most felt we needed last summer. I still remember being okay with this failure. Right up until the news dropped that Danny Welbeck was likely not to be seen until 2016. In such typically Arsenal fashion, this news came about 48 hours after the transfer window closed in September and I lost my… well, I lost my stuff. Don’t judge me, I know you did too. If you hadn’t already done so, that is.
Three strikers to get us through the opening half of the Premier League season (at least) and two of these guys weren’t even proper strikers. There was trouble ahead. Probably.
So it proved.
Danny Welbeck: B
PL appearances: 11/ 4 goals.
As we’ve already mentioned him, let’s start with Danny Welbeck. More than anyone, I feel, Danny Welbeck’s season epitomised the highs and lows experienced by professional footballers. Due to a knee injury suffered last season, we didn’t see Danny until he made his return against Leicester City in February. With seven minutes left and the game deadlocked at 1-1, Danny rose from the bench. Eleven minutes later he had headed home the most dramatic of winners to put Arsenal back on the path to Premier League glory.
Or so we thought.
Unfortunately, despite Danny’s best efforts, including another goal at Manchester United, Arsenal dropped out of the title race with almost Welbeckian speed. However, in his warrior like performance at Spurs and with his goals at home to Watford and at Everton, Danny showed enough to suggest he could be the centre-forward Arsenal need. His speed of thought, movement and physicality (in addition to an apparent improvement in his finishing) make him an enticing prospect. If only he can get over this latest injury, so cruel and so apparently innocuous, which ended his season prematurely at Manchester City. Oh Danny boy…
We can only hope that Danny takes a leaf out of Robert Pires’ book, or even his own book written last season, and comes back hard and strong. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that had Welbeck been available for more than two months this season, we would have taken a few more points than we did. He’s a serious asset to Arsenal Football Club.
Theo Walcott: D
PL appearances 28/ 5 goals.
Speaking of serious assets, paper talk last week of a £24m bid from West Ham for Theo Walcott had me salivating. It’s difficult, in the light of the news of Danny Welbeck’s injury, to imagine Arsenal voluntarily parting with another wide forward. However, it’s clear to all that, after 10 years in north London, the jet heeled winger has stalled in his development.
Cast your minds back to last autumn. Theo had been instrumental in a 5-2 win at Leicester City (the only defeat Leicester would suffer at home all season). He then gave a performance full of pace, intelligence and controlled aggression as we crushed Manchester United at home, 3-0. We were looking at a new model Arsenal centre-forward. And then he got injured. How very sad, how very Theo.
Theo hasn’t been anywhere near to these heights since he returned from that injury, despite crucial goals at home to both Manchester and Leicester City. The abiding memory most will take from this season of Theo, will be of him artlessly diving over a tackle that never came in at Sunderland. It seemed, at a stroke, to confirm our worst suspicions about the winger. That it came a few weeks after a truly anonymous performance at Old Trafford didn’t help either. To me, it’s instructive that Danny Welbeck, despite making only 11 Premier League appearances to Theo’s 28 has only scored one less goal.
Not good enough, Theo. Nowhere near close to it.
Olivier Giroud: C-
PL appearances 38/ 16 goals.
And speaking of not being good enough – wow, it’s almost like I’ve thought this through, isn’t it?
I’m kidding. Sort of.
I think that, if this season has shown anything, it is that Olivier Giroud is a perfectly serviceable Premier League striker, a great plan B. However, 16 goals from 38 Premier League appearances isn’t going to keep the detractors from, er, detracting. His barren run, which lasted 14 games in the Premier League, has become the stuff of infamy. In typically Giroud fashion, the run was bookended by goals at the Middle Eastlands and Anfield, with Giroud appearing unplayable at times during the Liverpool game. Of course, he would then become unplayable for an entirely different reason.
In mitigation, the injuries to both Walcott and Welbeck meant that Giroud was almost certainly played more often than was intended. If he felt, and looked, dead on his feet at times, then it’s entirely understandable. Following his red card at Dinamo Zagreb just because the referee was offended by his handsomeness, his excellent hat-trick (one of two this season) at Olympiacos was a bit of Champions League redemption. He also got the winning goal at home to Bayern Munich so it’s not been all bad. He just isn’t, and is never going to be, the 25-goal-a-season striker we need to give us a proper shot at winning the league. Despite the closing day hat-trick, he certainly isn’t the sort of centre-forward we should have playing in front of Mesut Özil.
Alexis Sanchez: C
PL appearances 30/ 13 goals.
Ah, Alexis. Regular readers (I do still have some, right?) will know that whilst I am hugely appreciative of the ability Alexis has and, in particular, of his work rate, I feel he could be more efficient with the ball. I think this has been much more obvious this season than last, but it would be unfair to go overboard (goverboard?) on him, particularly when he began the season apparently about as fit as I am following Chile’s Copa America win. It’s difficult to think of any other player currently in the squad who would have been thrown into that West Ham opener in similar circumstances.
Obviously, it took him a while to get going, but when he did, he scored a hat trick in the aforementioned win at Leicester City as well as two quite brilliant goals against Manchester United. It’s difficult to think of a time, in the Premier League particularly, where he has touched those heights since, but I guess it’s difficult to shine when your hamstring is in pieces.
Despite a goal against Burnley on his return to the team in January, it wouldn’t be until March’s North London Derby that Alexis would score another Premier League goal. As it turned out, his 76th minute equaliser, catching out Hugo Lloris with a smartly taken shot into the near post, proved crucial in us overtaking Spurs and finishing the season second. Goals in four successive matches in April included match winning strikes against Watford and West Brom. The opening goal against West Brom, featuring a smart turn and characteristically early, explosive, drive from distance could have been a goal of the season contender really. I guess it’s a tribute to his ability that this was treated as… well, just something he does.
Rumours have begun to gather like storm clouds over N5 regarding Alexis’ future. From a playing point of view, I think he’s the least of our concerns. Despite suffering from a dose of difficult second season syndrome, he was one of only two players to hit double figures and the closest to the desired, “one in two” ratio. We need more like him.