x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Theo Walcott learning from the master Thierry Henry

Premier League best and worst: Stoke City's defence brought back down to earth with a bang, while Kenwyne Jones's thunder stolen by high-scoring games, writes Graham Caygill.

Theo Walcott is the latest off the Arsenal production line of wingers who have been successfully converted to goal-scoring strikers. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Theo Walcott is the latest off the Arsenal production line of wingers who have been successfully converted to goal-scoring strikers. Glyn Kirk / AFP

Best teacher - Thierry Henry

The Arsenal forward Theo Walcott started out as a winger and now plays down the middle. He torments defences with his pace, finds the net regularly and sets up teammates. Who does that remind you of?

Thierry Henry's goal-scoring legacy at Arsenal is still revered at the London club, where he scored a club record 226 goals.

He is currently training with Arsenal during the off-season for his Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls, and Arsene Wenger revealed that the Frenchman had been giving tips and advice to Walcott on his finishing.

There was more than a hint of Henry in Walcott's terrific performance on Saturday as he ran Newcastle United ragged, scoring a hat-trick and creating two more goals in the 7-3 victory.

Walcott, like Henry, started out on the flank, but he has helped transform Arsenal's potency in attack since moving into a central position, with the Gunners scoring 13 goals in their last three games.

With Henry in his corner for the time being, the best may yet be to come for Walcott. Wenger and Arsenal will be hoping they can get his signature on another contract - his present deal expires in the summer - to make sure they are the ones to reap the benefits.

Worst hype - Stoke City

One of the best defences in Europe, it was said. Four goals conceded in the last 10 games, and just four given away at the Britannia Stadium all season - until Saturday.

So, just who were those impostors, clowning around pretending to be the Stoke City backline against Southampton?

Admittedly, there was some mitigation with both their captain Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron suspended. But in 36 perplexing minutes Stoke managed to ship in three goals and were lucky not to concede more as calamity after calamity struck.

First, Rickie Lambert, renowned as being pretty useful in front of goal, was left unmarked at the back post to give Southampton the lead on 10 minutes. Then Robert Huth managed to put a clearance against his own bar, wrong footing his goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the process, to allow Jay Rodriguez to net the rebound.

Andy Wilkinson then put the ball into his own net, although he and Huth demonstrated they were definitely not on the same wavelength in the second half when they went up for the same ball and collided, leading to both needing treatment for head injuries.

Stoke fans will hope the real back four show up tomorrow at Etihad Stadium when they face Manchester City, otherwise things could get really ugly.

Best goal - Kenwyne Jones

If Lionel Messi had scored it, you would know about it. If Wayne Rooney had been the man behind it, you would have heard the commentators screaming about it. Because Kenwyne Jones, the Stoke striker, was the scorer, this may well be the first time you are hearing about it.

The Trinidadian showed excellent technique to back-heel a low cross into the net from Ryan Shotton, which had fallen slightly behind him during Saturday's 3-3 draw with Southampton.

It was great instinct and deserved more acclaim. However, the big frontman's headlines and thunder were stolen by two scorelines as Arsenal put seven past Newcastle United and Manchester City won a seven-goal thriller against Norwich City.

Best point made - Edin Dzeko

It is no secret in the footballing community that Edin Dzeko does not like being a substitute, and he detests the "super-sub" reputation as a player who can come off the bench and score crucial late goals.

Before Saturday ,five of his six Premier League goals for Manchester City had been scored in games in which he was not in the starting XI.

The Bosnian had a chance to show Roberto Mancini what he could do when he was named to start at Norwich at the expense of Carlos Tevez, and he took his opportunity in emphatic fashion.

Two goals in the first four minutes proved he is as dangerous in the first 10 minutes of a game as the last, and his impressive partnership with Sergio Aguero will give Mancini, the City manager, food for thought as he ponders what his best attacking duo is going into the second half of the season.

 

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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