Theo Walcott certainly played for Arsenal this year. He was a bit of a divisive figure, but statistically at least, ended up one of the squad's most important players. Walcott made 46 appearances in all competitions, scoring 11 goals and laying on 11 assists. Okay, that's all the introduction you need. Go read the other things under this. Maybe don't vote in the poll until after that, though? Let us work our rhetorical magic first, okay?
Thomas: I've thought basically all year that Theo Walcott gets a bad rap, and while I can sort of see why, it's massively overblown. He's one of those players where people complain and call for him to be sold (or something), and that's not a rational reaction. Because of the kind of game he plays, he can have quiet matches - he needs the ball at his feet, and in games where the attack goes down the left for the most part, he doesn't do much. But when he gets the ball regularly, and gets a little space to work, he can do awesome things. Like that time he scored two goals against Tottenham Hotspur and we won 5-2. Robin van Persie trusts him and they have a great rapport, and several of Walcott's 11 assists were from the foot of Arsenal's captain. He has a big job this offseason, developing further to the point - hopefully - where he can contribute more technically, especially in games where fullbacks lie deep to negate his speed, but all in all, this was a good season for Theo Walcott. Not a great season, but a good one. So...let's sign him to a new contract, and stuff.
Grade: "And Tottenham do not know what's hit them! Well I can tell you, it's Theo Walcott!"
Paul: Signed, seemingly, at the age of four, Theo Walcott is a name that has come to represent an almost mythic level of promise and potential - he even earned an England callup, somewhat inexplicably given his lack of experience, in 2010. It's not exactly undeserved or ridiculous - he's a good player - but at the same time, Walcott as a player is like a par-baked loaf of bread; he's not done yet, and he needs finishing before he can be fully appreciated. He's crazy fast, he can do some amazing things with a ball at his feet, but he needs to rein in some of his youthful energy and learn to channel it before he'll be the awesome player we all want him to be. He's only 23, and in a couple years I hope he can take some huge strides forward and become a monster. Not a real monster, though. That'd be bad.
Grade: C+++++ (not quite a B-, but I can't wait for next year)
Aidan: At this point, I find it really hard to stomach criticisms of Theo Walcott that don't seem to depart from the argument that "he's not a footballer, but a track star with boots" or "he doesn't have a football brain". Given his partnership with Robin van Persie--the best partnership in terms of direct combinations for goals in the Premier League-- and the quality of the runs he makes, Walcott clearly has a football brain. This past season has probably been Walcott's best; he played in a record number of matches, solidified his first choice spot in the starting XI, and scored the second most goals in the Arsenal team, with 11, and had 9 assists, which was third most. He played in 46 matches, a record number for him. He suffered greatly during the Great Fullback Crisis, and he seems very much a confidence player, which can also be linked to how teams set up against Arsenal. The derby against the 4th best team in North London (after Arsenal, Arsenal Reserves and the U-18s) showed this; in the first half, Tottenham sat back and denied space and Walcott had a very poor first half. In the second half, Tottenham had to push up and Walcott was devastating. We know what kind of defence Walcott is good against; we know he lacks the dribbling skills to beat people in tight areas. He's 23, so he could still develop this, but at this point, we know what Theo is good at, and we know that he has a very effective partnership with Robin van Persie. Why can't people praise him for this instead of mindlessly criticise him?
Ted: The thing about Theo Walcott is that, by now, everyone knows what he is, basically. We know what kinds of defenses he struggles against, and we know when he can excel. As long as his finishing is dialed in (see the match against Tottenham), he'll be okay, and as long as he can get behind defenses for cutbacks, he'll be okay. When teams park the bus, he'll struggle. This is known. 46 matches this year is a ton for a guy who's seemingly always been injured, and while at times this year I wanted to throw things at my television watching him play, most of the time, he actually did well. He certainly offers a different dimension to most of Arsenal's other attackers, and you can't coach speed, to paraphrase someone. I don't love Theo unconditionally, but nor do I cringe seeing his name on the team sheet, even if he does disappear for long stretches in matches.