Arsenal began life under Arsene Wenger with so many trophies, but the drought is more alive than ever now. Nobody embodies this era like Theo Walcott.
Arsene Wenger was a breath of fresh air when he came to Arsenal. Despite being a hotly-contested appointment, it was clear that the innovations that the Frenchman brought were beyond what the Premier League was used to. These innovations changed player’s diets, changed training methods and brought about a new wave of information.
From the start, Wenger had a knowledge of the foreign transfer market that no one else had. It allowed him to sign Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, the crowned jewels of the Wenger era, with almost zero competition. Nobody knew about them. The Premier League was heavily English, so add in a foreign coach with knowledge of foreign players and he has his pick of the litter.
However, in an age of technology and information sharing, it was not going to last forever. Turning Thierry Henry from a speedy winger to the greatest striker in England was a one-off kind of thing. Wenger would not be able to find a deal like that ever again because now, every team in England was monitoring every inch of the transfer market.
But Wenger tired to replicate that success and he is still trying to.
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The man that was supposed to be the next Henry was Theo Walcott, a speedy winger from Southampton that was faster than Henry and scored as young as Henry. However, the game had changed, and Arsene Wenger hadn’t. Walcott picked up so many injuries and could not break into Arsenal’s striker position.
But Wenger stuck to the guns that got him where he was at Arsenal. In spite of the game changing and the physicality increasing, Walcott was pushed to striker, where he, like so many of Arsenal’s other strikers, have been hit or miss, with the majority being miss.
To put it simply, what once worked for Wenger at Arsenal has been figured out, but Wenger will not change his ways. This past decade may have been dominated by debt, but it has also been dominated by Wenger attempting to pull the same tricks that he did when they worked. Only they haven’t worked in a decade.
The transfer market is a highly competitive arena now, one that Wenger shirks in favor of slick signings like Theo Walcott. Only slick signings like Theo Walcott are no longer turning out to be Thierry Henry’s, they are turning out to be… well, Theo Walcott’s.
Then, in spite of all of it, Walcott gets an Arsenal extension for three years of good play in a decade of injuries and inconsistency.
What better to depict Arsene Wenger’s fall from dominance than Theo Walcott’s tragic tale? This may be referred to as the drought era, but it should be referred to as the Theo Walcott era. Wenger has been clinging to these past principles as if they are still some great secret.
Don’t get me wrong. This has been rather scathing against Theo Walcott, but I do not hold it against him. He has been a fan favorite for good reason and he loves the club. But given his injuries, struggles and inconsistencies, he is the trophy of the era, whereas Henry was the trophy of the last.
There is talk that Arsenal can still sell Theo Walcott to Liverpool. This is an interesting proposition because, as is, the Englishman has little relevance on the club. But as another token of the era, Wenger will hold onto Walcott for much longer than he should. Ironically, that is something he seems to have changed between eras. Whereas last era he was known to sell players off when they had passed their prime, this era is known for his willingness to cling to players past their prime.
For examples, look to Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker. Theo Walcott will be the next. Wenger will always find a way to try to prove himself right. Nobody is in a better position to do that than Theo Walcott.