Theo Walcott: A work-in-progress
Considered to be one of England’s finest talents, Theodore James Walcott is still a work-in-progress when it comes to attaining regular England and Arsenal place. Highly regarded by the English media and his club boss Arsene Wenger, Theo Walcott is working hard to do justice to his reputation. The 21-year old, apart from being a senior England player, had been a regular at the U-21 level and this is all part of his endeavour to become one of England’s finest future stars. After the disappointment of being left out of England’s World Cup squad for South Africa by Fabio Capello, Theo has made his mind up to prove the England coach wrong and he has made a great start by scoring a hat-trick against Blackpool on Saturday, his first treble for the Gunners.
The former Southampton star was heralded as a new star waiting in the wings to play for the Three Lions but not before big Premier League clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea came knocking at the doors of St. Mary’s. The young Walcott, after having scored five goals in twenty three appearances for the Saints, moved to the Emirates stadium at the start of the 2006/2007 season as Arsene Wenger came calling at his doorstep.
In 2006, Theo’s immense talents saw him get a shock call to the England World Cup squad by the then manager Sven Goran Ericsson. Although the decision turned out to be a controversial one as the youngster never played a minute of England’s campaign but it gave him a taste of international football and leading up to Germany 2006, Walcott became the country’s youngest ever full international by appearing against Hungary at Old Trafford in a World Cup warm up match.
Now a regular at Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal set up, Theo Walcott’s next aim in life would be to win silverwares for the Gunners and getting involved in a successful England team set for the qualifying campaign for EURO 2012 and win the tournament. He is still a work-in-progress according to Arsene Wenger and the Frenchman thinks that being left out of the England squad in South Africa is infact a blessing in disguise for the diminutive right wing forward. Walcott’s first and only goals in his England career came against Croatia in a World Cup qualifier on September 10, 2008 when the Arsenal striker scored a hat-trick to give England a memorable 4-1 win at Zagreb. By scoring all three goals, the player became the youngest in history to score a hat-trick for England.
Since scoring that wonderful hat-trick where the Arsenal forward terrorized the Croatian defence, Walcott’s form for both England and Arsenal since then has dropped and his shoulder injury that kept him out for nearly the whole of last season. Fabio Capello, given his ruthless decision making, has not made Theo a regular as the Italian is merciless about dipping forms and standards.
Yet the forward’s inclination to play for the England U-21s at last year’s European Championships was a true indication that Theo Walcott is ready to sacrifice his club priorities to resurrect his England career. This decision of his received widespread adulation from the English media as many thought Walcott is one of the few players who, in order to be a future England star, disobeyed his club manager to take a cut of his end season holiday to represent England in the UEFA U-21 EURO Championships in Sweden risking injuries knowing that any untoward event would seriously jeopardize his start of the season.
These sort of qualities had impressed Fabio Capello, Stuart Pearce and Franco Baldini although the experienced England coaching staff thinks that it is too early to put Walcott right into the middle of international mayhem.
The position at which Theo Walcott plays requires a lot of big match practice and his role as a wide player is very much important to the England set up. Yet the Arsenal man has to be a step ahead of the opposition as the winger will receive lot of the ball but at the same time is expected to do more with it and with Shaun Wright Phillips standing on his shoulder to take his place, there is immense pressure to perform both at the club and country levels.
The England Head coach, despite dropping Walcott, was quoted as saying last year, supporting the player, “Theo will be very important because we have to attack. Wide areas are very important because they are places where one man can go directly against another. I have spoken with Theo. He has been training well and needs to play.”
Once considered to be a long term replacement of Michael Owen, Theo Walcott needs to go a long way in achieving that tag but he is on the right track provided he keeps himself away from that painful shoulder injury that had plagued his last season. Yet many see him moving into a more central position both as an England and Arsenal player as the future shapes up. As an Arsenal player, Theo Walcott has inherited Thierry Henry’s no.14 shirt and as admitted by the player himself it’s a big number to wear on your back given the former Arsenal legend’s exploits in North London.
Born to a Jamaican father and an English mother, Theo sees himself as an ardent Liverpool fan given his father’s allegiance to the Merseyside club and the Anfield club once followed Walcott’s progress at Southampton but Arsene Wenger’s insistence of a bright future for the young player at the Emirates prompted Walcott to move to the capital and he could reap rewards of this staying at Arsenal as Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello both agree on Theo’s style of play and this season would be an acid test for the player both at club and international levels.
“This year I’m just going to get out there and show people what I can do,” said Theo Walcott in pre-season. “It’s all I can do really.”
It was an admirable attitude from a player who will be motivated by his World Cup omission last summer.
He remains a winger for now but Arsène Wenger and of course Fabio Capello still sees a striker in him. Wherever he plays there is more to come from Theo Walcott.