Theo Walcott showed his ability to play down the middle again in Arsenal’s convincing 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup Third Round. The winger was forced into emergency duty up front at various points last season and impressed regularly. But once Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud returned to fitness, Walcott was pushed into a wide position again.
Tim Sherwood, the Spurs manager, took a progressive attacking approach to the match leaving huge gaps in midfield for Walcott to exploit, despite the fact that the manager denied the fact in the post-match press conference, which was completely delusional of him.
Sherwood was bordering on the delusional in the press conference. "We was not not outnumbered in midfield, we wasn't."
— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) January 4, 2014
The inexperience of Nabil Bentaleb, making his first start for the senior Spurs side, combined with the attacking intent of the four man midfield gave the Gunners lots of opportunity to find gaps in the Spurs defense.
Walcott’s movement was impeccable. Often times Spurs defenders failed to track him and this opened up space for other Arsenal attackers. Serge Gnabry, the young German who has gotten more playing time this season than expected, was a beneficiary of Walcott’s constant movement. Tomas Rosicky, who has just returned from injury, also benefited from Walcott’s industry and innovation.
According to @BenMcAleer1, here are the average touches of players in the Arsenal Spurs game. Notice the space between Spurs’ midfield and defense.
The bad news for the Gunners of course was that the Englishman was carted off in the second half with an injury. Lukas Podolski who just returned from injury himself, appears the only viable option up top for Arsenal, though his preferred position is on the left side of midfield.
Still, Walcott’s play and Arsene Wenger’s continued ability to push the right buttons with his side were on fill display as Spurs were mauled in an embarrassing North London Derby. For Tim Sherwood, next time he’ll be more cautious tactically and for Wenger now he knows once again Walcott can do the business in the middle of the pitch.
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H/T Cartilage Captain for pointing us in the direction of the tweets.