Paul Parker

Time for Walcott to sink or swim as a striker

Now Arsene Wenger has given Theo Walcott a chance as a striker he has to give him a run of games to really show what he can do. It is time for Walcott to sink or swim in attack.

Wenger often wants to rest people and change things around, but one thing you have to do with Walcott is give him a run and it is time to let people see if he can play in the position that he has been targeting for so long.

He has been talking the talk, so let's see if he can walk the walk. Okay, he isn't going to be at the top level immediately, scoring in every single game, but this is the time for Walcott to show if he has the guile and intelligence required to be a striker.

You need to be able to improvise if you play that role for Arsenal - look at the way Thierry Henry kept surprising us - and it is not just about pace. Walcott has to be able to put the fear of God into opposition defenders and I don't think he is anywhere near that level yet.

To be honest, I am still unconvinced about Walcott as a striker. I am willing to eat humble pie if necessary because Henry became a great forward but still I don't think that Walcott is clever enough for the role. He doesn't have the quick feet or the tricks you need.

What the position does provide for him is more scope to run at players and also to run into space, and if there is one thing Walcott is, it is a runner. You need to put balls in behind for him and I think that makes it easier to defend against as you just drop deep.

It worked against Reading but they have conceded more goals than any other Premier League club. It was an okay performance, but you can't conclude from that that Walcott is now some kind of established striker - he has to be tested against the best teams and the best defences.

Even last night there was a moment in the first half when he ran through on goal but couldn't finish one-on-one. At the moment he isn't a natural goal poacher and I think he has been made into a footballer to an extent - he wasn't born to do it. It just isn't in his DNA in that way.

The experiment of playing Walcott as a striker is still in its infancy, and as we know with him, often one good game precedes two mediocre ones. There is no guarantee of consistency with him yet and he still has much to prove as a striker.

He is not a young player any more: he is an experienced member of the squad and an England international and he needs to start showing that regularly in his performances.

To be honest I think Arsenal are correct not to bow to his wage demands and expectation that he will get a regular place in attack. They should have broken the bank to keep players like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Patrick Vieira but Walcott is not on that level.

Manchester City have been linked with him, as have Chelsea and Manchester United, but I don't think the big clubs will be clambering over themselves to sign him. Even Liverpool have Raheem Sterling and Suso who can play out wide or possibly through the centre. Will Walcott get regular football elsewhere? There has to be some doubt about that.

I think he has to forget the hype, look in the mirror and realise that he is playing for a great club. If he gets the chance to impress as a striker and takes it, then all the better.