Theo Walcott’s arrival at Goodison took many observers by surprise. The former £20m wonderkid seemed a staple of the Arsenal regime, albeit one who appeared from the bench or in minor competitions.
He was once lauded as the replacement to Thierry Henry, bestowed the cherished number 14 shirt once the Frenchman had gone and had the hopes of a club and a nation piled on his shoulders. At 16 he went to the World Cup, a miscalculation on Sven Goran Eriksson’s part perhaps, but an honour nonetheless.
In the 12 years that have followed he’s dipped in and out of Arsene Wenger’s teams, never cementing himself as a regular but never failing to impress to such an extent he was cast aside. Whilst other bright young things, such as Francis Jeffers, faded away, Walcott has always clung on to both his integrity and some regular football.
He’s picked up a couple of FA Cup winners medals and a nice collection of England caps without ever having truly been given the run of games he’s needed to push his career forward. His arrival at Everton will undoubtedly mean more matches and a chance to finally show the world of his true value to the English game. It might just be the shrewdest move of Sam Allardyce’s entire career.
Last season, Walcott scored 19 goals in 37 games, an astonishing statistic when you consider he is essentially a winger. After Romelu Lukaku, Everton’s next highest scorers were Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman with four each. The threat Walcott offers from the flanks isn’t just based on lightning pace, he brings a real goal threat that will be crucial at Goodison for the rest of the season. It’s no secret that Wayne Rooney isn’t blessed with speed, but now he’ll have one of the quickest players in the top flight doing his running for him.
There’s a theory that Walcott has been allowed to leave the Emirates because of comments he made last season after captaining Arsenal to a 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. In his post-match interview, he said “they wanted it more than us,” something many observers took as an indictment of the spirit within the Arsenal camp. He only played one more Premier League game for Arsenal after that, despite his goal return.
Everton looked like relegation candidates under Ronald Koeman at the beginning of the season, but the arrival of Big Sam has brought a solidity and steel that has seen a turnaround in fortunes. They’re currently 250/1 with William Hill to finish fourth, whilst odds on them staying up are no longer being offered.
The brief flirtation with the bottom three has perhaps shaken the board up and triggered a change of focus, but Theo Walcott’s arrival shouldn’t be seen as anything other than incredibly exciting. Everton now have the two darlings of England, the two brightest talents in the country once upon a time. Between them, Rooney and Walcott have 29 seasons of Premier League experience, yet they’re only 32 and 28 respectively.
Whereas Rooney has enjoyed the success his potential promised, Theo Walcott has not. However, this latest move seems set to give him the amount of game time he needs to write another chapter in his career and in doing so, he might just help keep Everton in the hunt for a UEFA Europa League spot after all.