No one may ever know what happened at half-time in the north London derby on February 26th, 2012, but one thing is for sure: the Theo Walcott that arrived for the second half was not the one who was harangued by his own supporters for the first 39 minutes of the afternoon. Maybe Arsene Wenger gave him a hug, or a clout, or his own version of the hairdryer. Or maybe Walcott decided to not let the hypocrites get to him.
For so long, the lad once pronounced as England’s saviour has flattered to deceive. In 2006 he was taken to the World Cup in Sven Goran Erikkson’s last throw of the dice, despite never having played a senior game. He scored a hat-trick in Zagreb as England thumped Croatia but was subsequently left out of the squad for South Africa 2010, and he made that dazzling run for Arsenal against Liverpool in the Champions League and has hardly done a memorable thing since.
Theo Walcott gets the Arsenal fans back on side with his two goal performance
His two-goal salvo to see off Tottenham yesterday displayed Walcott at his best and infuriating worst. Both goals came from quite excellent finishes, reminiscent of his Zagreb heroics, but one was in spite of one the most woeful touches in the history of top flight football. The talent has never been in question – the decision making and execution has.
Anyone who suggests that Walcott is now the finished product is as fickle as the Arsenal fans who cheered him wildly having booed him vehemently. But this sort of performance can act as a springboard for bigger and better things. If Walcott can put together some sort of consistency there are three potential beneficiaries – Arsenal, England, and the man himself.
The bad press around the club during the Luis Suarez affair almost damaged Liverpool’s reputation irreparably, with the player, manager and board being called into question. But yesterday’s penalty shootout victory over Cardiff will have done much for the morale of everyone involved with the club and the watching public’s perception of them can only have improved. Gracious and humble in victory – Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in particular – this is the positive PR that Liverpool Football Club needed.
If Theo Walcott needs inspiration to reach his potential, he need look no further than the man who clocked up his 900th Manchester United appearance yesterday at Norwich – Ryan Giggs. His injury time goal summed him, and his club, up. Straining every sinew, never giving up, succeeding when not quite playing at his best. There may never be another player like Giggs. Could he make the big 1000?
Ryan Giggs can't contain his match winning joy
Sparky must wonder what he has let himself in for at Loftus Road. Hughes joined the club when Neil Warnock was sacked, and so far has seen his side pick up just four points from a possible 18. On top of those defeats has been a remarkable lack of discipline, with two new signings being sent off within a week of their arrival – Djibril Cisse in his second match and Samba Diakite in his second half hour.
Rangers are right back into crisis mode and, sitting outside of the relegation zone courtesy of goal difference, it is hard to see them staying in the Premier League. Mark Hughes’ angry reaction to what he thought was going to be a condescending pat on the head from Martin Jol demonstrated the strain the Welshman is under. Hughes left Fulham citing a difference of ambition. Little would he know that he would be the more likely one to head towards the Championship.
King is a brilliant defender, and the fact that he continues to play at the top level is even more remarkable given that he is essentially playing with no knees. But yesterday the Tottenham captain was blown away by the pace of the game. When he was finally replaced by Michael Dawson, King resembled a drunken pensioner leaving the pub after a hefty session. A bad day at the office is allowed for such a great servant and player, but Ledley should only play when he 100% ready.