It's been a long, hard season yet again. With 9 games to go, you'd have thought that we'd have settled on a proper starting eleven by now, but after the reshuffling ofthe team in the last few weeks, no one can claim to know our best team.
Vermaelen and Szczesny are to notable absentees from the starting eleven right now, as poor form, rumoured poor attitude, and some "mental fatigue", have seen Wenger ruthlessly banish them from the team. This is surely more than just a tactic, but a statement to our key players that noone's place is the team is safe, and that for the last 9 games the players need to up their performances, or face chop.
A player who by now should be looking over his shoulder is Walcott. It been a strange season for Theo. One where he started at pretty much the bottom of the pile due to the contractual issues, but worked his way into the starting line up through consistent performances, and goals. Walcott's great mid season form even led to a short spell in his favoured central position.
Then came his long awaited new contract. Since signing, we've seen the Theo of old. Someone who drifts in and out of games ad often look disinterested. You'd have to be pretty cynical to assume that this drop in performance level since signing his contract was anything other then coincidence, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Theo's current form is a worry.
He hasn't scored since the end of January.
With that spell including extremely disappointing displays against Bayern Munich in both legs and Swansea this weekend, where he was eventually hauled off by Wenger. But its not only the lack of goals, but his chance creation level and involvement in matches has significantly dropped. Whereas a few months ago the quality cross to Giroud that helped open the scoring against Bayern was a common occurrence, nowadays, it seems to be an anomaly.
That assist in Munich does show that the quality is still there. After all, Walcott has 17 goals and 13 assists in only 25 starts this season. An amazing return from any forward player, let alone one who has been thrust in and out the the team and all over the forward line. His new bumper contract means he needs to deliver consistently though, as he is now valued as one of the clubs biggest assets. It also means that he will face more pressure and scrutiny. Lets hope he can respond.
With Wenger showing his ruthless streak in recent weeks, and Gervinho, Chamberlain and Podolski all looking to assert themselves as a starter, there is little scope for failure. We only have 9 games left, and our goal is clear, to win as many of those games as possible and secure 4th place or higher.
Walcott must show he is up for the fight. Come on Arsenal.