Forget the defence, Arsenal’s problem is on the wings

Six years ago to this very day, Theo Walcott signed for Arsenal Football Club at the age of just 16-years old. The teenager, who had set the Football League Championship and the south coast alight whilst playing for Southampton, was signed by Arsene Wenger just a couple of months before his 17th birthday.

After a surprise inclusion in England’s squad for the 2006 World Cup, he was quick to make an impact in the red and white shirts of The Arsenal. In the first Premier League match at the Emirates, Walcott made a big impact on his debut, coming on as a substitute setting up Gilberto Silva, allowing him to score an important equaliser against Aston Villa.

The first highlight of his early-years at Arsenal include scoring an early goal, putting Arsenal 1-0 up against Chelsea in the 2007 Carling Cup Final. Sadly for Theo, it was a match where we lost and also a game that will always be overshadowed by a mass brawl, where 3 players where eventually sent off.

Other memorable moments of his career at Arsenal include multiple vital goals against Chelsea, his hat-trick for England in Croatia and also a fantastic solo run in the last few minutes against Liverpool, allowing Andrei Arshavin to score his 4th and final goal of that extraordinary match at Anfield in April 2009.

However, Walcott’s career at Arsenal hasn’t been perfect. He’s always had injury problems, usually issues with his shoulder that perhaps, will always give him problems when playing week in, week out.

Although his goal against Swansea City last weekend was a very clever finish, leaving an in-form Michel Vorm utterly defenceless in the Swans’ goal, I still don’t believe he had a good game. Both him and his fellow winger Andrei Arshavin did not perform well enough and ultimately, their poor performances made it even harder for the rest of our midfield to control the game against a tough Swansea side – most noticeably, Aaron Ramsey.

With Gervinho away, representing the Ivory Coast at the African Nations Cup, Walcott and Arshavin will have to do it for the next two months or so – unless the club have any plans to sign anyone else during this January transfer window?

Assuming we won’t buy anyone, on paper, these are our two best wingers – whether you like it or not – given the current situation.

Whether Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could do the business in the first team will always be an on-going debate. An argument which will only be silenced when The Ox finally gets his chance to play in the first team on a regular basis. However, based on the recent performances from both Walcott and Arshavin, I don’t think too many Arsenal fans would be against throwing The Ox into the deep end, again.

Although I may be being too harsh on the duo, I just can’t hold back any more. Although at times, I do feel sorry for them and accept that it must be hard to deliver great performances on a regular basis for a top club. But, when I see Arshavin running towards a – let’s be honest – mediocre full back, I still don’t have any confidence in the Russian – not like I used to.

As for Walcott, I have come to accept that his footballing brain will never satisfy me. At times, his final ball is very poor and I can’t get my head round why he complains that his teammates don’t get on the end of his through balls or crosses.

On the other hand, when it does work for him, you can’t question his inclusion in the side. When at his peak, he has the potential to rip apart any defence – no matter how good they are. Like he’s done in the past, he can make anyone look silly.

So we face Manchester United on Sunday and with Gervinho away, it’s expected that Arshavin and Walcott will start on the wings. I wouldn’t imagine Arsene Wenger would have rested The Ox at Swansea, to ensure he’s fit and ready to play against Man United.

Although, depending on Henry’s fitness (he’s having a test tomorrow), the boss may opt for an alternative option and start with Rosicky or Benayoun, to play a more central game in an attempt to restrict Man United’s midfield.

But like every game with Arsenal it seems, all will depend on the fitness of our players. Mikel Arteta is definitely out, which is a huge blow to our side. Thierry Henry faces a late fitness test tomorrow, while Thomas Vermaelen remains a big doubt, with Wenger saying the Belgian defender will have to take it “day by day”. Francis Coquelin still hasn’t returned to full training yet, but should be back next week to face Aston Villa.

If you’re wanting my prediction for Sunday, you’re not going to get one. A score prediction for a game such as this, is more unpredictable than Nicklas Bendtner’s first touch.

Come on you reds.

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