All About Theo. Again.
You often hear of Arsenal matches described as having been a bit crazy these days. Indeed, there had been a record 1094 goals scored in the league in the past calendar year at the end of yesterday – and believe it or not, even based on yesterday’s defensive showing, they weren’t all conceded by us and Newcastle.
But last night’s nasty stupid late 5.30 kick off, the kick off time that would be a rosé wine drinker and the kind to park between two spaces so as to protect its darling car’s side panels from any nasty damage if it were a real-life human thing, had two stupid matches rolled into one. In spite of the eight goal thriller (HORROR) that the two teams played out nearly two years ago at the then St. James’s Park, I always look at matches between Arsenal and Newcastle really fondly. It’s the first fixture I ever remember watching back in May 1998 in the FA Cup Final, and I also just really like the fact we play in red and white and they play in black and white. Their kit will always remind me of my first Arsenal match, so even though they do have Alan Pardew as their manager (for the next seven and a half years, chuckle), I can’t ever dislike Newcastle that much.
Last season’s home fixture was a bit spesh as well, because of the last minute-ness of it all, and because it was my main man Tommy who got us the 95th minute winner. This game was a different breed of dog altogether. It was half ridiculous because of the amount of times we went ahead before allowing Newcastle to equalise, and half ridiculous because of the amount of goals we scored in the final ten or so minutes. It was still 1-1 in the 50th minute, and we all thought we’d been watching a pretty dull game.
The fact that Newcastle were run ragged by Manchester United on Boxing Day while we were skipping through Hampstead eating crepes, really showed at the end there, because given the way the rest of the game had gone, only out and out knackeredness can be to blame for their collapse right at the end. So maybe there should be a little word of thanks to London Underground for having so many striking staff. But maybe not.
Every time Newcastle pulled one back, I thought ‘Well they’re not going to allow us to score again!’ and knew that a combination of our last home match with them and the final minute of their last match with Dutch badger’s new side, meant that a last minute winner for us was totally out of the question. I was swearing. We were all swearing. Jack was swearing a lot and got into plenty of arguments with his team mates (possibly concussed from his nasty clash with that homicidal ball that gave Ba his opener ?)
Obviously, as with all matches in which Theo has scored, the reporting of it has gone down as the Theo Walcott Show, but he cost us a couple of chances too. He should have put a second one away shortly after his excellent opener in the first half, and his shocking pass aimed in the general direction of Santi Cazorla’s shadow was another “FOR GOD’S SAKE, THEO!” moment. Credit where it’s due though, both his first and his third goals were basically fantastic. His third in particular, which harked back to his one against Chelsea away last year, showed signs of the ridiculous talent he can become.
That’s the thing though – he’s been showing this potential for years without completely fulfilling it. I don’t know if it’s his image or his politeness or his Englishness or just the fact he was picked up so young, but we seem to be much more patient with him than we are with others. If Theo is still being cut this much slack at nearly 24, how come Aaron Ramsey at nearly 22 (and excellent for his short spell on pitch yesterday) is written off by so many in spite of the troubles he’s faced that Theo simply has not? And of course Olivier Giroud scored two goals in 17 minutes playing centrally, while Theo’s second and third came from little bit wide. (Side note: Great things about supporting Arsenal #172: yesterday I got the chance to use the phrase ‘little bit leave it’ – who else can say this?)
I know it may appear I have somewhat of a vendetta against Walcott, but I really don’t. I want to believe he’s being genuine, but I just don’t understand him. He always looks so, so happy when we score, whether it’s through him or through someone else, but this contract issue has been a serious irritation. We always seem to have it happening with someone and I’m sure it’s more his agent than him, but I wish it would be over already. These things don’t take time, as evidenced by the five players who speedily signed their contracts last week.
That said, Teddy Eastoe had a trawl through the official website and if you look at the amount of times Arsene has mentioned Theo playing centrally, maybe you do have to have a bit of sympathy to his argument. At this point I would be extremely (happily) surprised if he were to re-sign and stay, but I won’t hold my breath. If he does, he’ll become my number one favourite player of all time purely for ending a contract fiasco in a way that benefits the team he owes a lot to, as opposed to taking his nurtured skills, his newfound maturity, and his flappy arms elsewhere.
My joint man of the match with Theo yesterday was Lukas Podolski. He’s had a mixed season thus far, and he does seem to make like a Polar bear and underestimate his own strength sometimes but he was on fire last night. It’s good to know he can burst into flames in this way, because we will need him to – and he will be wanting to – against Bayern Munich next year.
Per Mertesacker missed the game through some kind of tall person’s illness we mortals are immune to, and Koscielny came back into the side much more effectively than the last time he partnered Vermaelen against Chelsea. We were sloppy at the back, although none of the goals were either of the centre halves’ faults. Bacary Sagna’s sluggishness worries me – he was jogging across the halfway line as Newcastle attacked: Bacary Sagna doesn’t do that. And finally, Kieran Gibbs was great at going forward yesterday, in spite of failing to square a pass which earned him the cold shoulder from Jack. He didn’t seem all that fussed about defending, mind you. Do you think it’s some kind of infection players who play in this position for us pick up?!
All in all though, it was a very enjoyable game – or at least a very enjoyable last 20 minutes of a game. We’re fifth with a good goal difference and a game in hand, and it was nice being able to leave the stadium smiling yesterday. Also I think it’s important to note that Zana and I have now watched two matches together, and have seen two wins and 10 goals from Arsenal over the pair of these games. Can someone sponsor us or something?
The game against Southampton isn’t far away at all, but for now have a very happy new year.