Walcott's performance a worry for Arsenal
Arsenal forward puts in poor showing in first start, misses great chance to impress Wenger
(Fabricio Coloccini 52-og)
From being one of England's brightest prospects, Theo Walcott has turned into one of the most frustrating attackers to watch.
For club and country, he is seen as a stop-gap measure rather than an automatic first choice.
A golden opportunity fell on his lap at St James' Park yesterday.
After seeing his Arsenal side score just two goals in three Premiership matches, manager Arsene Wenger decided that enough was enough.
So, the Frenchman dropped striker Olivier Giroud and gave Walcott his first start of the season, against Newcastle.
Perhaps, just perhaps, a fresh face could provide the spark to kick-start a title challenge.
But the 26-year-old forward must have left the ground wishing he hadn't played at all.
Arsenal got the win they badly needed, but it was yet another pallid display by Walcott which will hurt him.
In fact, the 1-0 win, courtesy of an own goal by Fabricio Coloccini, slightly flattered the visitors.
Newcastle played for about 75 minutes of the game with 10 men, after the dismissal of Aleksandar Mitrovic for a stamp on Francis Coquelin.
The Magpies were there for the taking.
Walcott, for all his zest and speed in the penalty box, turned out to be a blunt weapon in front of bleating lambs.
He surely did his first-11 chances no favours, spurning arguably Arsenal's best three chances in the first period.
He had a clear sight on goal as early as the 10th minute but couldn't beat goalkeeper Tim Krul.
And when Krul later spilled a shot into his path near the half-hour mark, he completely missed the target from close range.
Minutes later, an effort at the near post flew into the stands.
For him, the half-time whistle was a relief. But the break didn't do him any good, either.
Wenger did the charitable thing 21 minutes from time, taking off a man with little confidence and energy by then.
In came Giroud, the player Wenger dropped from the starting line-up.
The signs don't augur well for Walcott, a decade ago the teenager every top Premiership club wanted to sign.
Things aren't looking good for Arsenal.
If Wenger didn't fancy Giroud despite him scoring eight goals against Newcastle in six previous league encounters - and Walcott still can't be trusted to rise to the occasion, then where does that leave the Gunners?
A new striker looks a necessity now, more than a luxury.
With the transfer window closing in a couple of days, things may get a little desperate.
But this performance may be the warning Wenger can't afford to not heed.
Three goals - two of them own goals - in four league matches is a worrying statistic.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Magpies continually tested a shaky Arsenal defence and looked especially menacing on the break.
However, it was Arsenal's lack of a cutting edge that was the talking point.
In all, they took 22 shots. But, the one that counted came off a Newcastle boot.
"We are out there and working on it and I am optimistic more than before, but it’s very difficult to predict."
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on getting a new signing before the transfer window closes
BY THE NUMBERS
2: After four EPL matches this season, Arsenal have scored three goals, two of which are own goals.
Wenger 'optimistic' about new signing
POTENTIAL: Arsene Wenger (above) believes that the return from injury of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Oezil will help them improve. PHOTO: REUTERS
Touted by many as title challengers before the season, Arsenal have failed to set the Premier League alight and it is their goal-shy attack rather than defensive vulnerability which has highlighted their underwhelming start this campaign.
Arsenal laboured to an unimpressive 1-0 victory over Newcastle United yesterday and only had a Fabricio Coloccini own goal to show for their endeavours despite racking up 22 efforts on goal.
Despite their array of dazzling attacking talent, only Olivier Giroud has netted in four matches this season - along with two own goals in victories over Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
In two matches at the Emirates Stadium - a surprise 2-0 opening-day defeat by West Ham United and a 0-0 draw against Liverpool - Arsenal have failed to score despite creating chances at will.
"You always want more goalscorers but I believe that at the moment, we have not fired on all cylinders offensively," manager Arsene Wenger told BT Sport.
"Our finishing has maybe not been absolutely clinical and we have to focus on that. We have offensive potential.
"We still have (Danny) Welbeck and (Jack) Wilshere out. We did not have (Mesut) Oezil today and they are all offensive players."
At St James' Park, Theo Walcott and Giroud spent time in a central-forward position, but both were guilty of spurning easy chances.
Alexis Sanchez, last season's top scorer, has yet to get going this season, while Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla have lacked a final product despite plenty of endeavour.
For much of the close season, Arsenal were linked with a move for Real Madrid's France forward Karim Benzema - one of the most feared attackers in Europe.
Wenger remains optimistic about bringing in attacking reinforcements before the end of the transfer window on Tuesday.
"We are out there and working on it and I am optimistic more than before, but it's very difficult to predict," the Frenchman added. - Reuters.