16th March – Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott burst onto the scene and went to the 2006 World Cup without playing a single minute in the Premier League and he continues to divide opinion.

At the age of 26 he still has a long career in front of him but he seems to have been around for a long time and maybe hasn’t developed as much as some Arsenal fans hoped. However, on his day his pace is frightening and he can be one of the deadliest finisher in Europe. Unfortunately after going to the World Cup so young a lot was expected.

Walcott England

Walcott started his career at Southampton and became the club’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days after coming off the bench against Wolves in a 0-0 draw. Just four days later he would make his full debut against Leeds United and would go on to score in the game. This began a remarkable rise for him as he would go on to score against Millwall and Stoke City.

Walcott Soton

This form alerted some of the biggest clubs in England and after just 23 professional games he joined Arsenal on the 20th January 2006. He would have to wait until the start of the following season to make his debut and made a good impression setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva against Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute. His first goal for the club would come in the League Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately they would go on to lose the game 2-1.

During the 2007-08 season he would score his first home and Champions League goals against Slavia Prague and his first Premier League goals against Birmingham City on the 23rd February 2008.The biggest compliment given to Walcott was that at the start of the following campaign he was given the number 14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry. But after a positive start a dislocated shoulder meant he missed a lot of the season and after recovering he was rewarded for his form by being given a new contract. Yet again the 2009-10 season was marred by injuries and restricted to just 15 league starts but in the Champions League he produced one of his best performances in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona. This must have given him confidence as he quickly became an important player for the club and started the next season very well with a hatrick against Blackpool in a 6-0 win.

Walcott Arsenal

But controversy was to follow after he admitted to diving to try and win a penalty in an FA Cup against Leeds on the 8th January 2011. He ended the season with a career high nine goals in the league and 13 in total which showed that he was getting better every season. Despite playing more games the next season he didn’t match his previous efforts and it was a little tougher for him.

Walcott was a striker at Southampton and many fans felt that is where he should be played and in the 2012-13 season he was given the opportunity and proved that he could play in that role. In his first game as a lone striker he scored a hatrick and provided two assists in a 7-3 win over Newcastle United and shortly after signed a new deal that put an end to any speculation he was about to leave. At the end of the season he finished 14 goals and 12 assists in 32 Premier League games and a further seven goals in other competitions. Two bad injuries in the next season limited his playing time but he still managed in five goals in 13 games. This season he has slowly been coming back from his injury but will be hoping he can make a difference towards the end of the campaign.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp who gave him his professional debut. “The kid can run through puddles and not make a splash. He’s lightning, he drifts over the ground and he’s a fantastic talent. I hope this kid can go on and be a top player. He’s got a long way to go but I’m sure he can.”

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27th September – Lloyd Sam

A lot of high profile players have gone over to America in recent years but there are others that have went over from England and made a big impression, like Lloyd Sam.

The 30 year old plays alongside world superstars such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill as well as others that have played in England such as Bobby Convey, Richard Eckersley and Bradley Wright-Phillips. So Sam will certainly feel at home at the New York Red Bulls and is known as someone that can use his pace and direct running to create chances for his teammates and it is no surprise to see him setting up a lot of goals.

Sam started his career at Charlton Athletic and became a professional in 2003 at the age of 18. He began to impress in the youth team and was called up to the first team squad for a game against Arsenal but unfortunately did not get on the pitch. He then went out on loan to get some more first team experience and joined Leyton Orient in 2004 and played 10 times for the club before returning to Charlton and making his debut for them on the final day of the 2004-05 season against Crystal Palace.
Sam CA
His opportunities were still limited and after playing just twice in the following season, he went out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Southend United during the 2006-07 season. Sam did also play seven times in the Premier League that season but unfortunately Charlton were relegated but this meant that the winger was now going to get a chance in the first team on a regular basis.

At the start of the season he was a bright spot for Charlton and scored his first professional goal against Stockport County in the League Cup. After this the club began to struggle and after missing out on promotion they started to fall down the table and were relegated once more at the end of the 2008-09 season. They narrowly missed out on a return to the Championship with Sam playing 43 league games as they lost in the playoff semi finals against Swindon Town.

After not being offered a new contract he joined Leeds United on a free transfer on the 9th July 2010 but he did not make a great start as he gave away a penalty on his debut against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. However, in the next league game he scored against Nottingham Forest and also received the man of the match for his performance. He then went on to score against Millwall on 21st August but this positive start did not last as Sam suffered several niggling injuries which kept him out of action for long periods.
LEEDS UNITED V LINCOLN CITY CARLING CUP  10/8/2010
He only featured in 18 league games for Leeds in his first season and did extra work in preseason to get himself fit for the new season and in the friendly matches he provided a lot of assists and topped it off by scoring in a 3-1 win over Newcastle United. This was still not good enough to get him a regular place in the side and on the 14th March 2012 joined Notts County on loan for the rest of the season and scored five goals in 10 games, including a hatrick against Yeovil Town in a 3-1 win.

When his contract came to an end at Leeds he signed for New York Red Bulls on the 16th August 2012 and impressed in his first five games before and injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has now recovered from this and helped the club win its first ever Supporters’ Shield in 2013, scoring the third goal in a 5-2 win over Chicago Fire.
Lloyd Sam
The final word can go to the Notts County manager that brought him in on loan Keith Curle. “I like Lloyd. It took him a bit of time to settle at first, but in the end he was enjoying it and was playing free flowing, entertaining, attacking football. Lloyd just keeps getting better and better.”

6th August – Robin Van Persie

Robin Van Persie has been one of the best strikers in Premier League history and can potentially make the difference between winning the league and coming runner up.

Last season he only played 21 times in the league and scored 12 goals so if he had been available for all 38 games then he would have likely scored over 20 goals and Manchester United would have had a much better season. Now Louis Van Gaal is in charge the 31 year old could become an even better player and after seeing some of his goals at the World Cup it is clear to see that Van Persie fits into Van Gaal’s systems perfectly.

The striker started his career at Feyernoord and made his debut at the age of 17 and made 15 starts in the 2001-02 season and started in the final of the UEFA Cup final. Early in the next season he scored five times in a game against AGOVV Apeldoorn but he did not have as much of a breakthrough season as he hoped because of a falling out with manager Bert Van Marwijk. He stayed at the club for one more season but left after 15 league goals in 61 games.
RVP Fey
On the 17th May 2004 Van Persie joined Arsenal for £2.75 million but had to wait until the 27th October to make his competitive debut and against Manchester City in the League Cup he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win. He finished his debut season with 10 goals in 41 games. He started the next season well with eight goals in eight starts but his season was disrupted by a toe injury and he could not continue his great form.

Once again the 2006-07 was disrupted by injury but he still managed 13 goals and was ready to become Arsenal’s main striker after Thierry Henry left for Barcelona. He took to his new role well with seven goals in 10 games but yet another injury ruined his season and all the niggling injuries he picked up were holding him back.
RVP Arsenal
The 2008-09 season was a defining year for the striker because he proved that he could be the main man at a big club as he scored 20 goals in all competitions and also provided 11 assists. His form in January of the season was exceptional as he either scored or provided the assist for every goal scored that month. Over the next few seasons he scored 9 in 16, 18 in 25 and then finally 30 in 38 before leaving for Manchester United.

He was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson to make sure that they won their 20th league title and that is exactly what he did. On the 22nd April he scored a hatrick against Aston Villa which confirmed them as champions and after 30 goals in all competitions he was seen as one of the best signings Ferguson made during his time at Old Trafford. Unfortunately injuries in his second season stopped him having the same impact and may have been part of the reason David Moyes lost his job.
RVP MU
The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “He’s unbelievable. I think his goals tell you that, his performance levels told you that. In terms of impact he has made as big an impact as any player I can imagine. Arsene Wenger said he was better than I’d think and he was right. He has been unbelievable.”