THE BLOG
18/09/2015 11:59 BST | Updated 18/09/2016 06:12 BST

Walcott on Form: Was the New Henry at Arsenal All Along?

Playing consistently as a striker is bound to help Walcott become more clinical, although neither of these things can happen without the supporter patience that Wenger referred to pre-Stoke. And at the Emirates - where prolific scorers like Henry, Ian Wright and Alan Smith were the norm for so long, but where no Premier League trophy has arrived since 2004 - that could be a bit much to ask.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial was being dubbed the 'new Thierry Henry' long before his debut goal against Liverpool, which evoked memories of the legendary French striker in his prime.

A few more like that and Arsenal fans may wonder why their team didn't try to recruit the 19-year-old to finally replace their all-time record goalscorer, whose statue still greets supporters as they pour into the Emirates Stadium on match days.

Young, quick, French; it's hard to believe that Arsenal were not interested in Martial at some stage, before United's panicked state drove up his price to around £36million.

Instead, they signed no-one, other than goalkeeper Petr Cech, despite overwhelming calls to bring in a new centre-forward, with current incumbent Olivier Giroud continuing to excite and frustrate in equal measure.

The message from manager Arsene Wenger on Friday was patience.

"Sometimes you have to trust your players and play them," he said. "People want always the absolute certainty that they will be successful. It is not like that. I played Nicolas Anelka and people asked me, 'Why did you not buy anybody?' Thierry Henry the same. I said, 'Let him play, maybe he will score'. It is not a science that everybody masters and where we can absolutely predict how many goals everybody will get."

The following day, Giroud was on target as the Gunners comfortably beat Stoke by two goals to nil at home. Their other goal was scored by Theo Walcott; a player more used to running the line than leading it. Despite this, it was the England international's 11th goal in his last 11 league starts, although it's a run that stretches all the way back to late 2013, before a cruciate ligament injury struck.

It has long been thought that Walcott, who has worn Henry's iconic No.14 shirt for the past eight seasons now don't forget, would play centre-forward for Arsenal. Is this the year it finally happens; and is Walcott, and not Giroud, who Wenger was referring to when he called for patience at last week's press conference?

Walcott's Arsenal goals tally reads extremely well for someone who's played in predominantly wide areas: 77 in 307 matches is almost exactly one in four. However, he was scoring at twice that rate in 2012-13; the campaign before his big injury.

The following season was going well, too; six in 18 is a better ratio than he's managed in five of his nine playing campaigns for the north Londoners, excluding this one.

So is moving Walcott into a central role simply a case of natural progression; something that would have happened sooner under different circumstances and the reason why a new striker was never sought? Saturday's cool finish, after he'd raced clear of Marc Muniesa to meet Mesut Ozil's through pass, is further evidence that Walcott could fill the role on a consistent basis.

Walcott, at 26, has arguably entered his prime years earlier than most, having made his Southampton debut as a 15-year-old. If a permanent transition is going to happen, it'll be sooner rather than later.

He will also need to cut down on missed chances. He could have had a hat-trick on Saturday, but spurned two clear cut opportunities, taking his tally of those to six for the campaign. No Premier League player has wasted more than Walcott in 2015-16, although team-mates Giroud and Alexis Sanchez are right behind him on four and five respectively.

He was also the top flight's most frequent chance misser last season, failing to tuck away those gilt-edged opportunities more often than the much-maligned Roberto Soldado, Mario Balotelli and Radamel Falcao; wasting one every 55 minutes on average.

Playing consistently as a striker is bound to help Walcott become more clinical, although neither of these things can happen without the supporter patience that Wenger referred to pre-Stoke. And at the Emirates - where prolific scorers like Henry, Ian Wright and Alan Smith were the norm for so long, but where no Premier League trophy has arrived since 2004 - that could be a bit much to ask.

Although if Wenger does get his wish, then the new Henry might not be in Manchester, but in the north of London where he always has been.

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