That is the sound of Gooners all around the world thundering down to earth. Theo Walcott will miss the season with his knee injury after having missed most of the beginning of the campaign. It is truly awful news for all connected to the club.
It is even worse for Theo though, we still have the hope and faith in the rest of the squad but for Theo himself, his season and a world cup place have been flushed down the toilet. He missed the 2010 world cup, didn't play as a 17 year old in his first and now injury will most probably prevent him from playing in Brazil 2014. Even if players are financially well compensated for these situations you have to feel for him.
So what now for Arsenal?
We have lost some very important qualities, qualities that we do not have in abundance and that is what is most difficult to take. Players like Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere for example are all technically more natural footballers than Theo but we have players in the squad that can compensate for them if injury strikes. Not many players at Arsenal can do what Theo can do,
The general response as to who should replace Theo seems to be either Serge Gnabry or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both wide players who have speed in their game so I can understand why those two are the first thought in Gooners minds.
While there are obvious physical similarities, the truth is that neither of those players perform the same role as Walcott. It was Theo's job to run away from the ball into goal scoring positions so he could receive a pass. Theo also had to move into positions near Oliver Giroud. It is the reason why Walcott was top scorer last season for Arsenal and why he had banged in goals for fun since his return from injury *sniff sniff*
When you watch Serge Gnabry and Chamberlain before him, you rarely see them sprinting off in behind a full back to get into position to score. They more often than not get drawn towards the ball and want to get in possession of the ball like our midfielders.
But not all is lost, there is one player who starts wide and ends up in scoring positions, although not exactly the same as Walcott. Lukas Podolski.
While a door closes on one, perhaps it could open for another. I have spoken a few times before about Arsene's desire for balance from both his wide players. He has gone off the idea of having two direct players from wide positions, instead preferring to have one inverted creative player (Cazorla, Rosicky, Wilshere, Chamberlain) and on the other side of the pitch start with Walcott. I would imagine that Lukas Podolski falls under that category.
Although he started with Podolski and Walcott at the beginning of last season, there came a point where the manager had seen enough. Podolski was the one to be sacrificed and instead Rosicky was drafted into the middle pushing Cazorla out left to replace Podolski. This is how it remained and Arsenal went on from strength to strength in a negative spiral kind of way. Enough to put our neighbours back in the shadows where they belong.
A few seasons back Arsene had come to the same conclusion, giving up on the Walcott and Gervinho combination, instead opting for Yossi Benayoun before the North London derby. We won that one 5-2 and went on to overtake Tottenham to clinch the CL spot. Sound familiar?
But going back to Podolski, it is difficult to know how the manager feels about him. Clearly not one of the first names on the team sheet and the manager also had some public words about his commitment on the pitch. It is not something he does often. How much has a supposed ankle issue restricted him in the last 12 months?
It is difficult to answer.
While Lukas Podolski is a wide striker who regularly scores goals, he doesn't make consistent off the ball runs like Theo Walcott. He is another who tends to get attracted to the ball even if he isn't spectacularly inventive or creative. There was one bit of movement against West Ham that was encouraging though, he had made a dart between centre back and full back and one of our players lofted a pass through to him but he hit the keeper with his shot.
I hope we see more of that in Walcott's absence. Santi is so good with either foot that moving to the right shouldn't be an issue, even if new partnerships between full back and the player in front will have to be established. Maybe this 9 day gap between Tottenham and Aston Villa has come at the right time. It gives Wenger and his players time on the pitches at London Colny to work out what the plan is,
So does this impact Arsene's decision in the transfer market? I am not entirely sure it does in truth.
Unless of course Arsene was looking for a Giroud style player who he couldn't find but had now changed his mind to buy more of a wide forward who could perform both tasks. Theo's injury doesn't make more players become available who fit what he wants in a forward signing.
I hope there are a few on his list that he is sticking up his sleeves for now, probably waiting until Chelsea turn their backs before we pounce. Well that is the hope at least.
I was feeling so happy after the weekend result, wrote most of an article that I planned to put up last night until I heard the Theo news and it became little bit redundant. *Slaps self in face* it's not all doom and gloom. Without Theo Walcott this season we pushed ourselves into first in the table and what we have done well this season is cope with dips in form or injury because someone else has taken the baton. Maybe it is time for Lukas Podolski to start producing his best in an Arsenal shirt.