It’s a case of ‘if only’ for Theo Walcott.
Reiss Nelson is the latest star to emerge from the Arsenal production line.
The 18-year-old has followed the trend of young English talent moving to the Bundesliga, joining Hoffenheim on a season-long loan to kick-start his career.
The move is a bold one from Nelson and as such should be praised.
Yes, the stars might have aligned and injuries and suspensions could have handed him a regular spot in Unai Emery’s side, but why rest on your laurels?
The winger has an opportunity to play first team football in one of Europe’s best leagues. It’s a gamble, but it’s one well worth taking.
In some far-off parallel universe, Theo Walcott is currently being heralded as a legend at the Emirates.
The 29-year-old is immortalised in bronze outside the stadium and Gunners fans don’t dare question him taking Thierry Henry’s No14.
In reality, it’s a stark contrast.
It’s widely acknowledged that Walcott’s development stunted at Arsenal.
A lack of opportunities, ill-thought out coaching towards his best position and injuries all played their part in his gradual demise.
Once thought of as the long-term successor to Henry, Walcott failed to achieve his undoubted potential, potential that could have seen him become a world-beater.
The £16million signing flattered to deceive in his first two seasons in north London.
Sparks of brilliance were countered with runs of inconsistency, nothing too unusual for a young player.
For Walcott however, those inconsistencies never left him.
After Arsene Wenger declared in 2008 that Walcott was “not yet at the level we expect of him,” rumours of a loan move for the youngster were rife.
His former club Southampton were just one of many who were willing to take the struggling starlet and give him what he so desperately craved, first team opportunities.
All advances for his services were subsequently rejected by the Gunners.
Walcott decided that staying with Arsenal was the best thing for his progression, insisting that his game would ‘benefit from training with some of the best in the world.’
The same interview revealed how disagreements over his favoured position were occurring just a matter of months into his Gunners career.
The youngster declared that he was finding it “frustrating” to not be playing up front. A narrative that would run for years.
With his career at a loggerheads early into his Arsenal spell, the solution to his woes were obvious to everyone, but himself and Wenger.
As loans to foreign leagues weren’t nearly as fashionable ten-years ago, a domestic move would have still been just as beneficial to Walcott.
You only have to look at the likes of Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard, two players who spent time away from their parents clubs in search of first team chances.
Both now have the world at their feet.
By no means can Walcott be remembered as a total flop in north London. He departed north London with a respectable 108 goals in 399 games.
It just could have been so much more for Walcott, that’s the eternal frustration for Arsenal fans and neutrals alike.
All those wasted years.
The career trajectory of Walcott makes Nelson’s decision all the more admirable.
Eager to get first-team minutes under his belt as soon as possible, nobody can fault the 18-year-old’s tempered confidence.
Arsenal fans have reacted well to the news and will no doubt be tracking the performances of Nelson this season.
It was Walcott’s delusions of granduare that ended up being his downfall.
Believing that he could dislodge the wealth of talent that the Gunners possessed at the time was never a realistic aim.
His confidence was misplaced and in the end proved fatal.
Nelson will hope to buck the trend of wasted potential at Arsenal.
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