January is fast approaching, which means it’s time for transfer rumors to consume our lives for six weeks or more!
Often, especially in the January transfer window, rumors are utterly nonsensical and outlandish — but this week, we’ve got an Everton transfer rumor that might, at least at first glance, make some sense.
According to the Mirror, Sam Allardyce is interested in bringing Theo Walcott to Goodison Park. The English winger has played a whopping 46 Premier League minutes this season (to go along with more substantial EFL Cup and Europa League appearances), so a move away from Arsenal could well be in the cards.
But, if Everton does genuinely pursue the 28-year-old, how would he fit into Sam Allardyce’s side?
The answer is unclear, at best.
Walcott’s position has primarily been as a right wing, with 203 of his 251 professional starts coming at that position, per transfermarkt.com — so let’s start by looking at the landscape there.
Aaron Lennon has the right side of midfield on lockdown right now, but the expectation is that Yannick Bolasie will claim that position when he is back at full fitness. Bolasie could theoretically slide over to the left to make room for Walcott on the right — but that’s where things get complicated.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has occupied the left wing exclusively under Sam Allardyce, with Wayne Rooney playing in an attacking midfield role and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at striker. There are a number of ways things could be rearranged to accommodate Bolasie on the left and Walcott on the right:
- Remove Sigurdsson and put Bolasie at left wing
- Remove Rooney, put Sigurdsson in the center of midfielder, and put Bolasie at left wing
- Remove Calvert-Lewin, put Rooney at striker, Sigurdsson in the center of midfield, and Bolasie on the left
But, can removing any of those three in-form players be justified in order to bring in a player who has managed only 46 Premier League minutes for fifth-placed Arsenal? As it stands, I don’t think a justification exists — and that’s before you factor in a potential Ross Barkley return.
What about a role off the bench, then? Well, that doesn’t make a ton of sense either.
The Toffees have two promising young attackers in Ademola Lookman and Nikola Vlasic who already aren’t getting as much playing time as Big Sam might like, simply because there aren’t enough minutes to go around.
Is Walcott a better player than both Lookman and Vlasic right now? Almost certainly.
Is Walcott so much better than Lookman and Vlasic that Big Sam could justify reducing their minutes even further for him? If the Toffees were in the midst of a title race or in Champions League contention, perhaps. As it stands though, neither of those are true — so the slight increase in quality doesn’t outweigh the loss in potential development.
Even if Allardyce did envision a bench role for Walcott, is that something he’d even want to accept? Surely he’d get more minutes off the Everton bench than off the Arsenal bench, but by how much?
There is one final possibility — Big Sam could add Theo Walcott to serve as a central striker, either as the first option or as a player to rotate with Calvert-Lewin.
First of all, this line of thinking assumes that Oumar Niasse departs Everton in January. If Niasse stays, and Big Sam doesn’t mind playing him, there’s no reason for Walcott to come in as a central striker.
So, let’s assume Niasse is leaving. Walcott could serve as another striker option with Calvert-Lewin, who will surely need some rest in the second half of the season after playing so many minutes in the first half.
Walcott’s numbers as a central striker are surprisingly good, though they do come with a caveat. In 31 starts as a central striker, Walcott has 19 goals and 9 assists, involved in nearly a goal per match at the position.
The catch is that a fair number of these goals have come in matches against clearly inferior opponents that often turned into routs. Four of those goals came against Slavia Prag and BATE Borisov in European play; Walcott’s two Premier League hat tricks came against Newcastle (a 7-3 win in 2012 that also featured two assists) and West Bromwich Albion (a 4-1 victory in 2015).
So is Theo the striker an option, then? It’s a possibility, but only a reasonable one if Niasse leaves in January as well.
Of course, if the idea is to bring in an additional striker option, Big Sam would obviously be better served just bringing in an actual striker.
Theo Walcott is a player of reasonable quality who deserves more Premier League chances than he’s getting at Arsenal. But as far as I can tell, there’s no clear place for him at Everton.
He’s not good enough to crack the starting XI as things stand. The team shouldn’t be taking minutes from young players to give to him, particularly given Everton’s mid-table status. He could play striker to give Calvert-Lewin the occasional rest, but he’s not proven to be a reliable enough player at that position.
How does Theo Walcott fit at Everton, then? It’s simple.