Sign up, Walcott… and focus on fulfilling your potential at Arsenal before it's too late
23:01 GMT, 18 September 2012
Judging by the standards of like-minded players all over Europe last season, Theo Walcott ranks above-average when it comes to creativity.
He’s not a world class player. He’s not a great player. He is though, with 11 assists in an Arsenal shirt, a very good one.
If cups were handed out for creative players in Europe, then Walcott would make it to the quarter-final stage each season.
Hands up who needs a new deal: Walcott is in contract talks
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Real Madrid’s menace Mesut Ozil had 19 assists during their title winning season at the Bernabeu. Team-mate Angel de Maria weighed in with 15.
In England David Silva, rewarded with a new five year contract worth 200,000 a week at Manchester City on Monday, had 17 assists.
Over in Germany, Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery (19) finished well clear of Marco Reus at Borussia Monchengladbach (12) and Bayern’s Thomas Muller (12).
Eden Hazard, playing at Lille in his final season before moving to Chelsea, was the architect of 18 goals in Ligue 1.
In Italy Andrea Pirlo – who else – was the creator supreme during Juventus’ unbeaten run to the Serie A title with 13 assists from midfield.
Alex Song, who moved to Barcelona in the summer, was involved in as many assists as Walcott from the centre of Arsenal’s midfield.
They are impressive statistics for a team finishing in the top four every year, but they are not mind-blowing.
Walcott’s assets have been recognised by other players, notably by Robin van Persie during his final season at the club.
The former Arsenal striker, who scored 30 goals in the Barclays Premier League last season and assisted with 12 more, always made a special case for Walcott.
He made a significant contribution to Arsenal’s goal tally, but he is in danger of being left behind during his contractual dispute.
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Arsene Wenger’s team are moving on at a pace, changing the shape of the team and the personnel during his absence.
In the time it takes to reject a new contract at the club, Walcott has been shunted down the pecking order by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the flexible midfielder Francis Coquelin.
After starting the opening game of the season against Sunderland, Walcott has been on the substitutes’ bench for games against Stoke, Liverpool, Southampton and Montpellier.
They coped just fine at Anfield without him, left on the bench as goals from Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla secured an impressive win.
When Walcott made it on to the field against Southampton last weekend, his 88th minute strike was of little consequence, other than personal satisfaction.
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Decision time: Walcott must make up his mind over his future
It is highly debatable whether he is even close to fulfilling the potential that Wenger and chief scout Steve Rowley spotted when he was at Southampton.
Then he was noted for scoring special goals, just as he did against Luton in December 2005 when he darted in from the left touchline before lobbing Dean Brill from the edge of the area.
Seven years ago he was a striker, and he was putting pressure on Wenger to restore him to the frontline at the beginning of last season.
That, publicly, is his preferred position, but he lacks the awareness and the schooling – but not the pace – to play up front.
In the past, there have been flashes of Walcott’s ability, but the very fact that they are on instant recall suggests a problem in itself.
The hat-trick against Croatia in Zagreb. The breathtaking run and cross for Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal against Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League. The clever execution of his pass for Andrey Arshavin to score a fourth at Liverpool.
Those are special moment in his career for club and country, but the danger is that this flexible Arsenal team can finish teams of without him.
Coquelin’s emergence, along with his ability to play in a variety of different positions, has affected Walcott’s standing.
Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to make progress and even Gervinho, who had a difficult first season at the club, is back in the team.
At 23, he should be in the team, a huge dressing room influence after such a long time at the club. Instead he has been sidelined until further notice, dropped by Wenger and given a deadline to signal his intention to stay.
The sooner he signs, the sooner he can start his career again.