Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Theo injured for the rest of the season: a signing is imperative now


Well, I hoped that the injuries would clear up by the 13th, in time for the Villa game. On the contrary, they've taken a U-turn and dealt our league chances a sickening blow. Official confirmation from Arsenal.com that Walcott is facing six months out with an anterior ligament tear has not made our trophy hopes any better, quite clearly.

I feel sorry for Theo, really. After experiencing a bad run of form from February 2013 till the season end, he's bounced back from an injury to become indispensable to this new-look Arsenal side. I'd argue that he is the best winger we have in our team, and even though he can be frustrating at times, he does deliver tangible results.

This season, we all saw a new Theo Walcott. As Jose Mourinho aptly put it, he has evolved from a boy to a man. Even in appearances from the bench, he provided assists against Cardiff and Everton. On starts he scored 5 against the likes of Manchester City, West Ham and Cardiff, not to mention provide a crucial assist to Giroud's goal at Newcastle.

His crossing had markedly improved too, apparent from two glorious chances he had created for Per Mertesacker against Cardiff. While Theo is a player that has never ceased to frustrate me, his recent performances suggested that he had cut down on his moments of poor finishing or wayward passing. At a time where he seemed like becoming a nightmare to left-backs, his injury would be a notable loss for the club, and also for him. It ends his chances to make a further impact on our title chances, not to mention effectively miss out on the World Cup for the second consecutive time, especially when England could use his pace.

I was in a state of shock when I first heard the news. While initial speculation suggested that he would be out for a month at most, I actually thought that he would recover quicker. His cool reaction on the stretcher suggested that his exclusion was a bit precautionary rather than signs of a genuine injury. Make no mistake, Theo's shocking news is a crushing blow to everyone connected with Arsenal FC.

It means that there will no longer be an injection of fresh pace in the final third. It means that we don't have one of our key men (an Arsenal through-and-through too, I might add) at the business end of an important campaign. Most importantly, it means that we have suffered a massive setback in a long overdue title challenge that was going according to plan till now.

However, we've long since learnt that there's no use crying over spilt milk. In a way, it's better that we've learnt about Theo's injury now in January, when we have the time and money to get in a player. It's telling how bad our striker situation has gone to that an injury to Lukas Podolski would pave the way for Park Chu Young to take to the field. (Who? Good question).

Do I still believe that Arsene Wenger will not get a forward? I don't think I do anymore. I don't think that even Wenger can be so blind to not get in a striker or a winger. However, Walcott's injury means that nothing less than a world-class striker would rejuvenate our team. While I think that Wenger would go for a convenient purchase of a half-decent player late in the window, I pray the manager has realized how Theo's injury has changed everything.

Our team, which was already lacking in cutting edge with a fit Walcott has been severely weakened with the loss of this prolific winger. With goals drying up from players like Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud, I honestly don't know where the goals are going to come from apart from Lukas Podolski, who Wenger is yet reluctant to field.

Right now, we need a very good striker who can also play as a winger, someone like Julian Draxler. I cannot possibly imagine a team without its most productive winger and only one decent striker to  find the back of the net in any game, let alone hold on to our league lead till May. Let's face it, we're a team in a bit of a striker crisis, and a signing is a clear antidote.

It's true that a replacement for Walcott is not an issue in terms of quantity in the squad. Oxlade-Chamberlain is quickly regaining fitness, and might be an acceptable replacement for Walcott's pace. Serge Gnabry's promising performance against the Spuds also mean that he can add reliable depth at this turbulent time.

However, even both of them combined cannot even come close to replacing Walcott's maturity and his goals. It would be utter madness by Wenger if he refuses to buy a forward with the excuse of having Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry and Yaya Sanogo in the team. The need for a striker (or a winger) is getting clearer by the day - I hope that Wenger is wise enough to notice it.

That's not to say that delving into the transfer market is the only answer. It's about time that we see players like Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere score goals and provide more assists. I can only hope that Cazorla's and Rosicky's goals pave the way for many more from them, because we could certainly use some now. The steeliness of our defence has masked the toothlessness of our attack, in stark contrast to previous Arsenal sides. It goes without saying that our forward needs addressing to continue our successful season, preferably THIS WEEK.

With all things said, it goes without mentioning that we need to avenge Theo's injury by conquering the league, just like with Robert Pires in 2001/02.

Come on Arsenal. For Walcott?

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )