Arsenal - Who Should Replace Theo On The Wing?
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Who Should Replace Theo On The Wing?

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

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Writer: itsupforgrabsnow Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 20 2008

Time: 5:32PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Playing on the wing will only aid Theo's development, if he'd have just been thrown in upfront, he might have excelled for a few months, then got found out and we would have a very one dimensional player on our hands. This is what has happened to Aaron Lennon. Wenger wants Theo to improve on the ball and becoem more aware of his team mates. I think on Tuesday, we'll effectively have a front three, with Eddie and Theo as attacking wingers playing off of Bendtner.
Little Dutch
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20/01/2008 17:40:00

With regards to AWs comments, I must confess I was surprised, but he knows the player better than we do. Sometimes at work, a boss needs to say, "you need to improve in this area", perhaps he's trying to toughen him up. Who knows, but given Wenger's record with man management I wouldn't write it off just yet.
Little Dutch
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20/01/2008 17:41:00

When Eboue comes back, that should be solved I think. Hleb of course is there, and Walcott can still be used on the right wing when the situation is desperate. I think his time on the wing will do him good in the long term, and honestly he lacks confidence and ball control in tight areas (sounds weird I know). Some interesting points, Merida started today for Sociedad (leading in the 90th minute) and Vela scored for Osasuna against Bilbao. Looking forward to having these two join up next year. As for Gibbs (who also plays on the left) I really liked him in preseason against Inter, and in the CC where he was playing makeshift left-back. He has some serious competition in Vela though and I wonder will we ever have the need to buy a player with all these excellent kids coming up!
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20/01/2008 17:48:00

I agree with the article & I would like to see Gibbs get a chance. I believe Wenger said a couple of weeks ago that Gibbs & Randall will be in the first team squad next season, so if he truly believes they are good enough (& both have certainly looked good enough in the few appearances they made) then he shouldn't be afraid to throw them in a few months early. I do have doubts that we will ever see Gibbs though, because Wenger most certainly sees Vela as a left winger or playing off a 3 man attack, so with both him & Rosicky ahead I don't see Gibbs getting a look in, which will be a real shame.
Ashburton Gooner
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20/01/2008 18:01:00

Maybe you should loan him out for a while?
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20/01/2008 18:15:00

Walcott not playing wide isn't going to give us much of a problem this season. The 4 players we use wide are Hleb, Rosicky, Eboue and Diaby augmented as needed by Eduardo. There is no reason for that not to continue this season. We would need to see more of Gibbs, Lansbury, Randall et al in the CC first before throwing them in against premiership opposition. The Spurs game could be the time to do it. This game has to be a forfeit for us if need be. I really don't see why we need to risk any important player so lets give Gibbs and the others a run out with Bendtner and Walcott up front.
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20/01/2008 18:15:00

i think randall will play on the right and walcott will play as a striker for this carling cup semifinal.
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20/01/2008 18:18:00

Thats a very good point Tim RE Walcott only being a one dimensional player if he had only played up front. I didnt actually think of it in that way! I suppose you are right (as always!) about that but we shall see what happens. AG I really hope that Gibbs gets a chance as I think he has the ability to make it at Arsenal. Would the possibility of Rosicky leaving in the summer be a possibility? (although i hope not!) But whatever happens, next season Wenger will have a selection headache with the youngsters coming thru and Vela coming back from loan
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20/01/2008 18:35:00

I've never been impressed with Randall, but Gibbs looks like a natural. I expect him to take on a Denilson type role (appearences rather than positions) next season!!!
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20/01/2008 18:47:00

R7- Don't you think that Vela will take those appearances away from Gibbs next season? Assuming Rosicky isn't sold on, then he is clearly first choice & Vela will be the back-up player who gets the CC & possibly the FA cup games to shine. I don't see Gibbs getting a look in & can see him being loaned out (which will be gutting to see, as like you I think he has been so impressive when he has had the chance).
Ashburton Gooner
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20/01/2008 19:07:00

Ultimately, if Gibbs is good enough, he'll get the chance. If he's better than Vela, he'll get past him. If not, then Vela will deserve his place. The best player will get through, which is all any Arsenal fan should be concerned about.
Little Dutch
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20/01/2008 19:22:00

I'd forgotten about him, so I'm sure AG, I'm sure AW did say Vela would play on the left or upfront. Going on current statistics, Bendtner Eduardo & Ade will be first choice strikers, whilst RvP sits on the treatment table, so Vela can have that 4th place. But if Gibbs is good enough then I guess he'll play, if he is competing with Vela for a place and Vela is better, well, then Vela deserves to play. But for me (based on my very limited viewings of the pair(and I've seen Gibbs more than Vela)) then I'd say Gibbs is the better player, on the wing at least. One thing is for sure, it's a very nice problem to have.
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20/01/2008 19:28:00

Hleb. Did you see that cross! I can see him cutting inside and skipping around defenders with his twinkle toes or providing inch perfect crosses for the strikers. I would also like to see GIbbs given an opportunity for first team experience, and have high hopes for him in the longer term, but i think that Hleb can make that role his own and become another legendary wingman as was Bobby Pires! If he can play on the right, and Vela is as good as we all hope on the left, we may be in for a few treats!
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20/01/2008 20:27:00

A few months back, maybe even more recently we seemed to be rueing the lack of players in wide positions. Now we seem to be building up a surfeit of options. That has to be good for the team but we should recognise that ultimately we will have to sacrifice some of the younger players, not ready for the first team, as an inevitable process of thinning them out to make room for talent coming behind them. This will mean letting a higher standard of young player go than we have had to in the past. We won't be able to fit in players that might well have made it in previous squads. As long as the level of the first team continues to rise as a result it is just something we will have to get used to.
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20/01/2008 20:47:00

vela scored today .. he played vs real madrid and he was just amazing so i assume he would play there next year watch him
Gooner SA
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21/01/2008 00:50:00

I dont think Arsene will necessarily stop playing Theo on the flank just yet and in any case we have enough 1st team options to cover there. I don't know why but I feel it's Diaby we'll lose this summer, not Rosicky. If that happens, there is no reason why Gibbs can't start to stand in. He combined well with Traore so in the Emirates cup. With the more experienced Clichy behind him, he could even do better still. I hope we see much more of him this season.
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21/01/2008 01:27:00

Both Gibbs & Vela appear good enough for the first team & I'm not trying to pretend for one minute that Gibbs is better than Vela or vice versa, like Rocky7 I haven't seen enough of either to know (especially at the top level). However I don't think it automatically follows that whoever is best will play, Wenger will prefer Vela over Gibbs & thats a fact. Arsene would say that Vela has played two full seasons in spain, one of which was in la liga & so has more experience than Gibbs. Ultimately that will get him preferential treatment, unless he is absolutely useless. Do we have any youngsters coming through on the right wing??
Ashburton Gooner
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21/01/2008 10:44:00

now we seem to always play with at least a tall striker (Ade or Bendtner). how wonderful if we can have Bentley back. like him or hate him, he is a great crosser. imagine how many more headed goals we can get from those crosses. hope we can get Queresma. he is our answer to Ronaldo.
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21/01/2008 15:32:00

That's a good point actually AG, I think you're right there. However, both players are still extremely young and have plenty of time. There's also the issue of injuries, we all know how hard it seems to be to keep our players fit, there are always games to be had all over the park!
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21/01/2008 15:43:00

When's the last time Gibbs playd for us? Was it against inter? if thats the case, it'll be an extremely tall order for him to come directly into the side and fill a relatively experienced Walcott's boots. im not convinced Arsene will strart any of the young Enlish boys. i still think he'll play Theo on the right. One more match wont hurt anybody.
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21/01/2008 17:30:00

He last played against Sheffield United in the Carling Cup WUBI?! I think he is in the squa for tommorrow so we shall have to see!
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21/01/2008 18:11:00

hleb is a ninja
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21/01/2008 20:53:00

Gibbs is probably the most likely to get a chance. We're a bit thin in that department, and to be quite honest, he's the only proper winger we have in the squad. But Vela, from the little I've seen and heard, looks like he can and will be a future winger for us rather than another striker. Hopefully, he can be the final piece of the puzzle, the goalscoring winger that we've been longing for since the days of Overmars. Reyes fitted the bill, but we won't go there! I don't know much about Lansbury, but he recently scored a hat-trick in the Youth Cup, not bad going for someone tagged as a holiding/box to box midfielder. Randall looked ok against Blackburn, but I agree with Rocky, he's never really been anything special. I doubt he's got a future here. As for Theo, I still have faith that he'll go on to be a great player for us, as a striker, of course. All we do know is that it'll be interesting to see how this whole thing pans out...
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22/01/2008 16:42:00


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