Thursday, February 29, 2024

Theo Walcott explains why Arsenal duo haven’t been as ‘explosive’

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Theo Walcott has offered an explanation as to why Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have not been as ‘explosive’ this season.

The two Arsenal wingers were among the best players in the Premier League last term as the Gunners finished second behind Manchester City.

Saka produced 14 goals and 11 assists in 38 top-flight games while Martinelli scored 15 times and registered five assists.

This season, Saka has 12 goal involvements from his opening 14 Premier League matches but Martinelli has managed just four across 13 appearances.

Former Arsenal star Walcott has shared his thoughts on the duo as he told the BBC: ‘Saka and Martinelli are both really effective when they get on the ball in the pockets of space between the opposition midfield and defence.

‘But you don’t get many wingers now who like to make runs in behind, like I did, because a lot of teams tend to drop very deep to defend against that.

‘Arsenal have found this a lot recently – the space for Saka and Martinelli to run into just isn’t there any more.

‘That’s one of the reasons they both maybe haven’t quite been as explosive this season as they were last year, but I’d also say it’s hard to maintain that kind of intensity when you have their defensive workload too.

‘Saka and Martinelli have played a lot of football in the past few months and you have to consider how hard they work, and how they have to do it over and over again, not just in an attacking sense but also without the ball: pressing, tracking runners and keeping tabs on their full-back.

‘I did that too, but I also remember playing in games where I’d be told not to come back past the halfway line, and that I didn’t need to defend, which was music to my ears as an attacker.

‘I would be thinking that just leaves me free to go forward, which is what I am going to be judged on.

‘There’s so much more defensive work now, especially if you are playing as a winger for one of the lesser teams against someone like Arsenal or City, when you have to work so hard just to get the ball back.

‘Their fitness levels are so important and, compared to those times where I was told I didn’t have to defend, they are probably working 10 times as hard and they are hardly ever in possession.’

 

 

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