Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday October 13 2008
Part of the reason this award is later than usual is because I wanted to stockpile some material for the interminable bore that is the international break. The other reason is that, quite frankly, I've been unable to decide. Even as I am writing I am ruminating my decision to the last. So I have spent the weekend exiled in a secluded Tibetan Shoalin monks meditation camp, appealing to a higher power to use my brain as a vessel to channel its higher wisdomand help me make the decision. But that didn't work, so I journeyed deep into the New Guinean jungle, stripped naked, painted myself red and white and danced the watutsi in order to cure my deep angst. (Not really, I spent the weekend in Guernsey getting horribly drunk. That didn't help me make a decision either).
You see there are two clear candidates for the September player of the month award. Both have demonstrated massive improvement, both have spent most of the month on the right side of midfield, there are many who would offer that is not the best position for either player. Both have made mistakes this month too, it was hard to separate. Emmanuel Eboue has played all across the midfield and excelled in every position this month, helping himself to a goal an assist and a stepover so beguiling that he tripped himself over. Theo Walcott has been the name crossing everybody's lips, he began the month by scoring a hat trick for his country (a feat which has zero bearing on my final decision) and took the verve and confidence to his club to create goals, opportunities and generally scare defences shitless with his pace. Eboue and Walcott both had poor games against Hull City. Walcott created a goal and effectively shipped one too. Eboue did neither but reassumed the whingeing, ineffective caricature we had seen at times last season.
But I have decided to opt for Theo Walcott, shading Emmanuel Eboue on points after the Twelfth Round. As mentioned before, Walcott began the month by making himself the toast of the country with a fulminating hat trick for England in Zagreb. The pressure will be huge on Walcott with focus exerted onto him, but there again, even at the age of 19, Theodore is an aged hand at such matters. Many worried at the ramifications of the immediate focus, the Boss even admitted that he considered protecting his protege from the limelight. Would the attention of an adoring nation swell the usually level headed young man's ego? But injuries forced Arsene's hand and Walcott had to play an unfamiliar role on the left. All worries were dispelled within eight minutes, he picked the ball up with his back to goal on the left wing, spun inside and slalomed between two defenders before releasing a perfectly weighted ball to Robin van Persie to score. Walcott and Eboue swapped flanks incessently the whole match and, ironically enough for the purposes of this article, were our two best players. There would still be no respite for Theo, an injury to Eboue meant he had to play again on the Wednesday in Kyiv. It was his first half cross that was cutback by van Persie to see Fabregas miss a sitter. Predictably, Walcott was mercilessly roughhoused for the whole match, accumulating more hits than the Beatles, causing his manager to rage post match. At one point, Walcott pulled himself to his feet following another savaging from one of Kyiv's pariahs and stood toe to toe with the hulking left back. The diffident Theo was left back at Luton Airport and replaced by a Bruce Banner hologram.
Walcott showed he would not be intimidated by reckless Soviet left backs deep in the confines of Eatern Europe. With two minutes remaining, he received a pass from Fabregas, composed himself on the right edge of the box and slid in a dangerous low ball along the Kyiv six yard box for the equaliser. The sanguine young imp had become a bumptious young upstart. Three days later he was rested to the bench for the trip to the Reebok Stadium to face yet more savages. Eboue took the reins in that particular match, handing over to Walcott with some fourteen minutes left and a drained looking side hanging onto to a two one advantage. Theo effusively left the bench, Bolton's captain instructed his left back to shoot on sight. Walcott made a complete dick of both. Picking up the ball in his own half, Walcott performed another passable Forest Gump impression, tearing at Bolton's tiring backline of neanderthals whose sharpened studs and salacious elbows were no match for Theo's keen wit and puma feet, leaving three men trailing in his wake he released Adebayor in the penalty box, allowing him to slide in Denilson to score.
Perhaps the biggest indication of Walcott's rising stock arrived that Tuesday in the Carling Cup Third Round. He was left out. Considered too senior and a little too long in the tooth to be seen running out with the young reprebates. There followed something of an indifferent display against Hull City, but one of my big arguments to Theo's detractors has been that he has a decent end product, so he proved against Hull. In an otherwise unflattering match, he taunted Andy Dawson onthe right touchline, twisted to the byline and whipped a mean ball into the area for Arsenal's only goal of the game. Lamentably, he blotted his copybook twelve minutes later by allowing Geovanni to cut in from the left unchallenged to hit a stunning equaliser. Still room for improvement there. Against Porto he seemed to be more effervescent, once again providing an assist for van Persie after an intelligent interchange on the right. He might have left the game with a goal when he somehow contrived to deflect Toure's cross wide and then provided a carbon copy chance for Nasri, accelerating past Bruno Alves on the right and putting another dangerous ball into the box. Whilst there is still plenty of room for improvement, Walcott has really come of age in September, showing a notable desire to improve. His crossing is consistently decent, he has improved no end with his back to goal and appears to have found hairs where there weren't any before, His defending still needs work, but his improvement since April has been almost as accelerated as his movement over twenty yards.LD.
Date:Monday October 13 2008
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