Equal Time: Theo Walcott has a chance to get his career back on track at Everton
It is a question that has divided Arsenal fans to the tilt. What about Theo Walcott? The answer was never found during endless debate among Gunner stakeholders. The player's transfer to Everton only shifts the conversation to Merseyside watering holes.
Signed as a fresh-faced teenager from Southampton in 2006, the player leaves the Emirates after 12-years. There is appreciation for what he did, frustration over what could have been. He has been signed by Sam Allardyce at Everton to add pace to the Toffees’ attack.
Walcott fell further down the pecking order at Arsenal when Arsene Wenger changed to a 3-4-3 formation. The player has seen Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck usurp him in the French manager's thoughts. The 28-year-old winger had failed to make a 2017-18 Premier League start prior to his Everton move. Now he has the chance to rebuild his career at Goodison Park.
Erstwhile boss Ronald Koeman signed a bevy of players in the summer. Wayne Rooney has had something of a renaissance, perhaps motivated to distract fans and pundits from his interrupted journey in a VW Beetle not his own. Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and the rest have largely failed to impress in the Premier or Europa Leagues. There was a brief surge when Big Sam first walked in the door but the Toffees' form has gone soft again. Cenk Tosun and Walcott's arrivals may or may not change the story.
Farhad Moshiri, Everton's majority shareholder, is ambitious about the club's prospects for reaching the European places but this season has been a learning curve. Too many players have not hit the heights expected, Sandro Ramirez and Davey Klaasen included in the long list.
Sometimes, though, it takes time for everything to settle. Going forward this season and next a new era could dawn. Walcott could be a key proponent. Only Thierry Henry and Robin Van Persie scored more goals under Wenger than Walcott’s 108. Yet, Theo never gained the status the French and Dutchman enjoyed at the club.
He may have been a victim of his early success. He scored his first goal for Arsenal in the 2007 League Cup Final. Chelsea won courtesy a Didier Drogba brace but that mattered little. The youngster showed too much promise to fret over one bad result. When then-England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson announced Walcott as one of his players for Germany 2006, albeit without making great use of the youngster, many thought it would be the first of many.
Events have conspired to prevent Walcott from returning to the Copa Mundial since. Surely he would be interested in making a second appearance at last this summer.
Despite scoring 19 goals last season, Walcott found this campaign tougher to negotiate. The speedster has never quite reached his potential. A club like Everton could help him reach a level of consistency he couldn’t muster at Arsenal. He will play under less pressure and expectation but will be keeping his eye on playing well in a bid to make Gareth Southgate’s team. At 28 he is still expected to play at the top level for another three or four years. Although, like new teammate Wayne Rooney, there is the danger of burnout after such an early start in top-flight football.
Everton is a step down to Arsenal. For Walcott, however, it might be a step up. He has teammates and a manager who can help him thrive. It's time he reminded England of his quality.