Previous teams: Southampton
Bio: Not many players divide opinions as much as Theo Walcott. Signed from Southampton’s productive youth academy in 2006, Walcott was at the centre of controversy from the very beginning of his Arsenal career. Just 17 years of age, Theo arrived as a January transfer window signing and was to spend the rest of his maiden season with Arsenal playing for the reserves. But one kind word from Arsene Wenger to England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, and wide-eyed Theo was on the plane to Germany in the national side’s World Cup squad.
That decision backfired spectacularly as Walcott failed to come off the bench during England’s mediocre cup campaign. But his career was only just beginning as he began to get regular spots off the bench at Arsenal in the 2006/7 season, coming on to assist Gilberto for the first goal scored by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
His blinding pace was evident from the off, though starts proved hard to come by for Arsenal. But the club had put together a fantastic run with fringe players in the League Cup, and Theo managed to secure a starting berth up front for the final against Chelsea. While the youngsters were ultimately out-fought by Chelsea’s millionaires, the game will be remembered fondly for Theo scoring his first goal for Arsenal thanks to some sizzling footwork and a tidy finish.
By 2008, Walcott was getting regularly starts on Arsenal’s right wing and became an increasingly more influential player during the club’s 2007/8 title-charge. Theo announced himself with an emphatic dribble against Liverpool in the Champions League from outside his own box all the to the opposite by-line, before crossing for Emmanuel Adebayor to score. Like so many individual highlights, that magical moment was laced with regret as Arsenal again lost the fixture.
The following two seasons saw Theo’s goal output slip, scoring just 10 goals and providing six assists from 65 appearances.
2010/11 was arguably Walcott’s best season, scoring 13 goals and providing nine, before producing similar figures the following season with 11 goals and 13 assists, most of which were laid on a plate for the in-form Robin van Persie.
To this date, Walcott has yet to secure a place up front in his supposedly favoured position as striker. At his best, he is an untamable phenomenon on the right wing, using his sheer pace to beat even the world’s best defenders.
Lionel Messi dubbed him as “one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against” after the winger played a vital role in beating Barcelona 2-1 at the Emirates, a year after he scored against the same team in a 2-2 home leg.
But his best performances have often been coupled with inconsistent showings, with defenders dropping deep to counter his pace, leaving the player to muddle about on the right wing.