Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday January 25 2008
As the dust begins to settle on the 'once in a blue moon` defeat to Spurs (getcha DVD and commemorative mug- the word 'mug` in this case proving incredibly apt), I`ve been taking stock of things for a few days. Whilst those of us who stayed beyond 59 minutes on Tuesday night deserve commendation for our support, quite perplexing sight was that of legions of our supporters beginning to express their anger at Theo Walcott. A guy sat in front of me berated him for most of the 65 minutes he was on the pitch. What struck me most about this occurrence is that I see that guy at every away game and know that last season his shirt had `32 Walcott` on the back of it! I feel that sets and interesting paradigm for the way that Arsenal fans, and English football supporters in general appear to ride roughshod over their senses when it comes to finding a scapegoat.
It is true that Walcott has looked a player very low on confidence of late; his last two performances have been very below par. But in truth, I feel desperately sorry for the kid. Because he is a victim of circumstances way beyond his control. Much like Steven Gerrard in an England shirt, people have hyped Theo to unrealistic proportions, set him standards that he has yet to attain, so when he falls short of these imagined standards, we are apparently given free license to vent our spleen and explicate some kind of collective vitriol. (The difference here being that Saint Stevie gets a free reign from the press. It`s those foreigners, it`s their fault eh Stevie? Or that nasty boardroom struggle, that`s what makes you so average). What I am reaching at here is not an assessment of Walcott`s form, which has been patchy (as one would expect from a TEENAGER) but of the perplexing psyche of the machine that surrounds him, media and its lapdog, the football fan, all indulge in this nauseating microwave culture that hinders the likes of Walcott.
Given what we have seen of Walcott so far, it is reasonable to assume he has the POTENTIAL to be, at least, a very good footballer. His season curtailed last March with Theo having given his team mates eight assists, an impressive number for a bit part player. His performance upfront against the admittedly terrible Slavia Praha was devastating and he has shown coolness in front of goal that belies his tender years. Of late, he has looked short on confidence and turned in some insipid displays. But the stupidity of this situation is that if Walcott held a different passport, he would be largely left alone to develop in the way that van Persie, Fabregas, Toure and Clichy were. Instead, the kid is hounded and built up as the second coming (in retrospect, his inclusion in the World Cup squad hardly helped) and shot down just as quickly. The national media and their treatment of young players, insulates them to the point that they either crumble under the pressure and fade into mediocrity or believe their own hype and, well, fade into mediocrity.
So the media are self serving, sanctimonious arseholes with the moral code of an alley cat. You knew that right? So why the hell have Arsenal fans been so easily taken in by tabloids and broadsheets alike? Seriously, are you that stupid? The analogy of Pavlov`s Dogs comes back to me time and again, ring a bell and watch them salivate. On Theo`s debut at home to Aston Villa, he put in a cross which eventually led to an equaliser and the Gooner nation went nuts for him as hyperbole spewed from every orifice. Fast forward eighteen months and we have a thread on this very forum that says, "Theo will never make it." Why people cannot see the absurdity of completely writing off a kid who is not yet 19 defeats me, it really does. Walcott is a player of potential, that is all he has ever been, so please don`t bag the kid because he`s not turned into this immediate world star and taken to our voyeuristic gazing and pathetic doting. I know he cost £5m, eventually rising to £12m, but that is not his fault, so why he should receive the flack for that I am not quite sure. He did not choose to be selected in a World Cup squad having never played a top flight game. It`s not his fault he happens to be English. Yet these are the reasons that the spotlight is exuded on him with such garish focus. And most Arsenal supporters have taken it hook, line and sinker.
By way of comparison, let us look at Denilson. In his appearances so far this season, he has not quite looked the immense talent he did last season, he has looked much more ordinary and much more, well, like a teenager. So come on Gooners. Why are you not berating him as well? Why is his every appearance not unbearably scrutinised? Why aren`t there any threads on the forum saying, "Denilson will never make it?" Would it be because your copy of the Sun or the Times or the Guardian or which ever self serving tissue of lies you read is not telling you to? Dr. Pavlov ain`t ringing the bell, so you ain`t hungry, is that it?
While it is safe to say that Walcott is not a winger, it has been key for his development for him to serve his apprenticeship out there. One common denominator in English players is a lack of technique, Theo certainly suffers from this. Doubtless because, since he was young, his coaches merely instructed him to "run after the ball very, very fast when it gets near you." Wenger seeks to aid his technique and ball control out on the wing, where his blistering pace can also be an asset. This is where Wenger differs from other managers; he irons out the weaknesses in a player. Take a look at Aaron Lennon, two years ago hailed as the young prodigy; his development has been zero in the ensuing time because he has added nothing to his game but for a burst of speed and a right foot. But in predictably English fashion, we won`t afford Theo the time or the patience to develop as a player. No, no. Far more sensible to inflate his status to that of messiah before publicly stoning him for an ability to turn water into wine. It brings me back to the gentleman I mentioned from Tuesday night. He faithfully bought his Walcott shirt at the beginning of last season, with zero knowledge of the player other than the hype that surrounded him. Now that he is not obtaining these entirely false standards, heaped on his shoulders by others, that gentleman feels indignation at Walcott. And now we have a player, written off as a failure before his 19th birthday. Is it any wonder Wenger goes with the foreigners?LD.
Date:Friday January 25 2008
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