A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

Walcott and Van Persie could emulate Henry and Bergkamp up front for Arsenal

Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers, aside from providing the club and it’s fans with some welcome respite from recent troubles, brought up Robin Van Persie’s 99th and 100th career league goals for the Gunners.

The Dutch captain had a tremendous game, truly leading by example (despite Alan Hanson’s argument on the contrary included in his ‘insight’ on MOTD) to lift the doom and gloom that has surrounded the Emirates Stadium since the summer, with two well worked goals to secure the 3 points before Alex Song’s late strike.

However, most impressive for the rest of the season was the link-up play seen between Van Persie and Theo Walcott, perfectly demonstrated during the second Arsenal goal. For some time now Walcott has been speaking of his desire to play in a more central striking position, and both the pros and cons of this debate were evident yesterday against the struggling Lancashire club.

On the plus side, Walcott was busy throughout the afternoon as he used his speed to his advantage. Surging through on goal after an Aaron Ramsey pass, Walcott’s blistering pace forced defender David Wheater to tug him back, giving the referee no choice but to reach for the red card, virtually denying Bolton any hopes of getting back into the game.

However, the Englishman’s main flaw was evident during a second half chance where he was played through on goal by Alex Song, and found himself one-on-one with Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskaleinen. Perhaps snatching at the effort too soon, Walcott dragged theshot which was beaten away by the Fin.

Therein lies the conundrum Arsene Wenger faces. The French manager has said numerous times he eventually envisages Walcott as a striker, a sentiment the player himself agrees with, so too John Terry, who spoke out about Walcott’s good finishing during a recent England meet up.

However, Walcott has yet to prove himself as a clinical and prolific goalscorer, as Robin Van Persie has done this calendar year, who has fired in a staggering 21 Premier League goals since the turn of the year.

Even so, with Walcott set to enter the final year of his contract next summer, it seems that a positional move will be crucial to those negotiations. Van Persie, Song and Vermaelen are all in a similar position with contracts, and securing these stars on long term deals in absolutely vital to Arsenal’s resurgence.

I do believe that Theo Walcott has the ability and determination to to play as a central striker. Much like Thierry Henry, Walcott’s idol, he has started on the wing but may flourish through the middle.

That means Wenger must accomodate two strikers into his side’s formation, stark in contrast to the adopted 4-3-3 used to bring the best out of Cesc Fabregas. Now the Spaniard has moved on, Arsenal should look to bring out the best in their top current stars; Robin Van Persie and Jack Wilshere.

Van Persie was all over the park against Bolton, making his presence felt from inside his own half to his opponent’s penalty box. Perhaps now is the time to give RVP a free role, much like the role fulfilled by his former countryman, Dennis Bergkamp.

With Van Persie dictating the play from a deeper role that seems more suited to his natural game, Walcott could play on the shoulder of the last defender, utilising his speed to finish the many chances the Gunners create. The only issue here lies in Walcott’s effectiveness in front of goal, but such a partnership seems worth a shout for me.

Wenger has been a staunch proponent of a packed midfield in modern times, but there are glimpses of success around promoting the benefits of two strikers. Manchester United for one, look as dangerous as ever this season, with Wayne Rooney in a deeper role behind one of Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez.

Ok, playing two strikers shot Manchester United in the foot against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League final, where the Catalan ‘carousel’ trumped Fergie’s formation 3-1. In games against weaker sides though, United have dominated games because of their attacking verve, stemming from playing two frontmen.

It would be unfair to assume that Walcott and Van Persie could re-create the unmatched magic, deftness and pure skill of Henry and Bergkamp, they could strike up a similar relationship in the mould of their idols.

The omens are there, with both Walcott and Van Persie currently holding the squad numbers, 14 and 10 respectively, of their favourite past Arsenal greats. If these strikers could develop half the understanding that Henry and Bergkamp enjoyed, then it would be a gamble worth taking.


September 25, 2011 - Posted by | Football

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