Walcott value to rip into Royals

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: December 16 2012, 17:45 GMT

Backing Theo Walcott to star against Reading on Monday night could reap impressive dividends, says our Andy Schooler.

Theo Walcott: Took home the match ball last time he played against Reading

Reading v Arsenal (2000 GMT)

In theory, this game could be just what the doctor ordered for the Gunners, still reeling from last week's League Cup exit at the hands of League Two Bradford.

Reading sit bottom of the league with just one win to their name, while they have kept just one clean sheet all season.

However, as was shown at Valley Parade, supposedly inferior opposition does not always turn up only to roll over and with Arsenal lacking in confidence at both ends of the pitch right now it would take a brave man to back them at odds-on away from home.

It's now six away games without a win for Arsene Wenger's men and just one clean sheet in 11 after their Bradford embarrassment.

Both teams to score begins to look tempting at 8/11 given those statistics - not to mention the 7-5 scoreline the pair produced in October's League Cup tie.

For those seeking a bigger price, then 15/2 about Arsenal winning from behind also has potential.

Reading, who could have Pavel Pogrebnyak and Jason Roberts back to add goal threat, have thrown away more points from winning positions (17) than any other side this season. Conceding 20 goals in the second half of games is a big reason for that.

However, a lack of fight is one thing the current Arsenal side is accused of, so I'm not convinced this is the way to go, especially with confidence so low at present.

Instead I'm going to take a punt on the man of the match market.

As I showed when backing Marouane Fellani in this market earlier in the season, it can often be easy to predict the story arc of Sky Sports' TV coverage - and significantly the winner is chosen by their commentary pundit.

Of course, the player in question then has to deliver a decent performance, but if they do they are highly likely to land the award.

The story for this one could well centre on Theo Walcott, if he's declared fit to play.

First of all he's making regular headlines in the papers right now due to contract talks - or lack of them - so expect a pre-match Gary Neville analysis on Monday Night Football on how important he is to the Gunners.

The second reason for focus on the England international is that he scored a memorable hat-trick in the aforementioned League Cup tie.

Essentially the spotlight will be on Walcott from the start and his lightning pace could again see him tear into what is a very leaky home defence - only Southampton have a worse defensive record in this season's Premier League.

Throw in the fact that the 23-year-old has scored in each of the last three away games he's started and 14/1 looks too big about Walcott winning the man of the match award.

For those concerned, if his calf injury means he does miss out then stakes will be returned.

Verdict: Reading 1 Arsenal 3

  • The match is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.

  • Preview posted at 1730 GMT on 16/12/2012.