Scarecrow: how Walcott compares to the best right wingers in Europe
If there is one player guaranteed to divide opinion amongst Arsenal supporters, it's Theo Walcott. And lately he's been dragged into the rumour mill through guilt by association with Robin van Persie - just for being in a similar contractual situation as our captain. Some supporters say we should sell him, others think he's an important cog in our harmonic machinery. And although AR is in the latter camp, it would be good to actually see how Theo measures up against the best right wingers in Europe.
Obviously 'best right wingers in Europe' is subjective, but in the interest of objectivity we're going to base this term purely on WhoScored's rating algorithm that takes Opta statistics and turns them into a performance rating. We decided that the most important stats for a winger would be assists, key passes per game, accurate crosses per game, accurate dribbles per game and shots per game. We also included turnovers and dispossessions (both negative stats; lower number is better).
By 'right winger' we are only considering players who have started the majority of their league games in a right wing position. All columns except name, games played and age are numbers per game.
|Player||Games||Age||Gls||Asts||Shts||Key P||Drb||Acc Crs||Disp||Trn|
|Theo Walcott||32 (3)||23||0.22||0.22||2.2||1.2||1.0||0.5||1.9||2.3|
|Santiago Cazorla||38 (0)||27||0.23||0.13||2.3||2.2||1.3||1.6||2.4||1.5|
|Arjen Robben||18 (6)||28||0.50||0.21||2.9||2.2||2.5||0.9||0.8||0.8|
|Angel Di Maria||16 (7)||24||0.21||0.65||2.1||1.9||1.0||1.0||1.4||1.6|
|Alexis Sanchez||20 (5)||23||0.48||0.20||1.8||1.0||0.9||0.3||2.0||2.1|
|Antonio Valencia||22 (5)||27||0.15||0.48||1.0||2.4||1.3||1.7||1.1||1.6|
|Jesus Navas||37 (0)||26||0.13||0.32||2.2||2.5||1.1||2.2||1.2||1.2|
|David Silva||33 (3)||26||0.16||0.41||2.4||2.9||1.1||1.0||1.6||1.3|
|Dani Alves||29 (4)||29||0.06||0.33||1.1||1.6||1.1||1.1||1.5||1.2|
|Thomas Muller||33 (1)||22||0.20||0.20||1.9||1.8||1.6||0.8||1.9||1.3|
|Mario Gotze||14 (3)||20||0.35||0.29||1.5||2.1||3.5||1.5||2.1||1.8|
|Jeremy Menez||33 (0)||25||0.21||0.39||2.1||1.5||2.0||0.2||2.6||1.8|
|Jakub Blaszczykowski||22 (7)||26||0.20||0.31||1.3||1.9||1.8||1.4||1.1||1.1|
It's clear that Walcott isn't miles away from the best right flank players in the world, and Theo doesn't even prefer playing on the flank. Just going by these stats in comparison, Theo is almost identical to Alexis Sanchez at Barcelona. The biggest statistical issues with Theo is that he gets turned over a lot (turns over possession to opposition), and that he needs to improve his key passes per game.
However, there are lots of things statistics can't measure; intention, opposition influence and any off-the-ball movements (as statistics can only really measure actions on the ball). Many supporters do feel that Theo Walcott is inconsistent, and they do have a point, but Theo Walcott's biggest strength isn't measurable by numbers; speed. And I don't mean speed as in distance over time, but speed as in how opposition players adapt and react to it.
By being such a fast sprinter, opposition full backs often avoid pushing up the pitch, as they don't want to get involved in a running challenge. And this results in whole opposition defensive lines pushing back slightly as well, ultimately inviting Arsenal into possession, which results in fewer attack opportunities for the opposition.
And by using Theo as an impact substitution (his best role in my opinion), we gain an instant upper hand in both regular attack and counters, due to opposition defenders being tired and not concentrating as much as in the first 30 minutes of the game.
If you ask me, £100k per week is a no-brainer. Not that I believe that Walcott or any in his camp is actually asking for that amount.