Didn’t we all do a proverbial double-take when Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger began making comparisons between his dynamic young attacker Theo Walcott and Thierry Henry?
What he said was that the young England international has the look of a young Henry.
But didn’t we all wonder if Wenger had been nipping at the old French cooking wine with this little analogy? Didn’t we wonder if he was getting just a little on in years, starting to come up one winger short of a full 4-3-3, if you know what I mean?
To be perfectly fair, Wenger was speaking about where he once deployed a young, developing Henry. More accustomed to playing on the wing, Wenger began stationing Henry in the middle.
That’s what is happening now with Walcott, who has been positioned lately at striker rather than out wide. It was really a ploy to get Walcott on the field, to itentify ways to keep him passing, trapping and shooting, to keep him happy as a North Sea clam and the man re-signed at the Emirates. Walcott’s deal is up this summer, but Wenger is clearly doing all he can to keep the young England man.
It looked like the manager might just be blowing a little wind up Walcott’s soccer shorts with those flattering Henry comparisons:
“I always said that one day he would play through the middle and it grew in his brain. He is now 23, and I decided to play Thierry Henry at 23 through the middle because you have to learn a lot before.
“The fact that you play in other positions helps your technique. On the wing you need a shorter technique against the line but once you play in the middle you can go on both sides. From 19 to 23, Theo has learned a lot. Now we will sometimes play him on the flanks, sometimes through the middle, but I like what I have seen through the middle. The signs are good, it’s an interesting challenge for him but I think he can take it on.”
Of course, Wenger is looking like a genius now. Walcott’s hat trick today didn’t just lead the way for an unforgettable day around the Emirates (in a 7-3 victory over Newcastle). It improved Walcott’s scoring leadership for Gunners; he is not at 14 goals for Arsenal this year.