Ever since he came to Arsenal the expectations have been sky-high from the young Englishman. One World Cup and two Premier League seasons later, he is set to make the step up into the Arsenal starting lineup. But can he be a worthy no.14, just like his predecessor and idol, Thierry Henry?
When Theo Walcott first arrived at Arsenal in January 2006 many compared him to the Gunners’ Gallic legend Thierry Henry. However a lack of first team opportunities over the past two years has seen the young Englishman fail to live up to these high expectations. But now that he has inherited the Henry’s no.14 shirt, it could be just the time for him to step up and fill his idol’s boots.
Both players started their careers as wingers but neither was prolific in this position, and so both were moulded into strikers when they joined Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Henry became a player feared by any defence once he switched to a striker’s role. Walcott, on the other hand, hasn't been so daunting to begin with. To be fair though, Wenger has played him on the wing most of the times so that the youngster can learn how to go past his man, and learn to track back and help in defence as well. His progress has been slow but steady, and his performances towards the end of last season have shown that he can surely become a world-class striker, just like Henry.
Like Henry, Walcott uses blistering pace to run his way through defences. His run against Liverpool was reminiscent of Henry's against Tottenham the only difference being that Henry scored whereas Walcott set up a team mate. This is where Walcott seems to differ from Henry, the Englishmen doesn't seem to have the eye for goal that the Barcelona star does. Last season Walcott managed to score 7 goals from 39 appearances, a huge improvement from the season before when he only managed 1 in 32 games. This season is almost going to be make-or-break for him, and he will really have to improve if he is to manage a respectable goal tally. He needs to be more selfish in front of goal and have more confidence in his own ability. He also needs to make his pace count a lot more and needs to get himself into goal scoring positions in and around the box if he is to score even half as many as Henry.
So can he be the next Henry?
When Henry was 19 he scored 3 goals in 22 games for Monaco. Compare that to the now 19 year old Walcott and you can see the Englishman is doing considerably better at this stage of his career. Wenger's guidance was vital in helping Henry become a world-class player, and Walcott now has the opportunity to make the most of having this wonderful manager and guide around him. If he can cement a place in Arsenal's starting 11 and keep building on his goal tally season by season, with his ability there is no reason why he can't scale the heights the Frenchman has.
At the end of last season, Theo went up to Henry and asked him to sign his Carling Cup final jersey, wearing which he had scored his first goal for Arsenal. The striker duly obliged, and wrote “1 down, 225 to go”. And being so young, maybe someday Walcott might actually surpass Henry's record of 226 goals for Arsenal, and in the process become their all-time leading goal scorer.
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