Archive for March 4th, 2010

Walcott outshone by Wright-Phillips – start panicking?

25 comments March 4th, 2010

One couldn’t help but feel that last night had the potential to be a turning point in Theo Walcott’s season: an international friendly on home turf, wearing his treasured number seven shirt. He may not be first-choice at Arsenal but in the absence of Aaron Lennon, Fabio Capello’s loyalty is unwavering. The autumn of 2008 saw Walcott net the hatrick which cemented the Italian’s reputation, and Don Fabio doesn’t forget such favours in a hurry.

Walcott is one of few England squad members spared the ire of the press and the fans. The closest he comes to off-field shenanigans is staying up past his bed-time for a dust-up on Tekken. As a consequence, the feeling among 80,000 fans at Wembley was unusually generous. There were ironic cheers when John Terry misplaced his first pass of the night, but each time Walcott received the ball the crowd rose in hope and expectation that the young tyro might once again demonstrate his potential on the international stage.

Sadly, it was not to be. Walcott’s career thus far has had elements of fairy-tale, but an immediate and accomplished return to the International fold after six months of niggling injuries and spurned chances was a narrative leap too far. With 57 minutes gone he was replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips, who not long ago seemed to have been cast to the International scrap-heap by Capello. Wright-Phillips offered penetration where Walcott had offered pace alone. The Man City winger is a flawed player, but his spatial awareness and focus on providing a cross put Walcott’s contribution in unflattering relief.

No-one will have been more disappointed than Arsene Wenger, watching at home. Whilst Walcott’s England form is of little concern to him, a good showing might have proved the catalyst for a decent run of club form. As it is, Walcott is probably behind Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky and maybe even Eboue in the queue for a first-team place.

That said, I’ve no time for Chris Waddle, who has accused Theo of having “no football brain” on the most spurious of evidence:

“I keep thinking, ‘Fabregas has learnt and he’s young, Rooney has learnt… they all read the game so well’. I just don’t think he’s got a football brain and he’s going to have problems.”

I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Walcott is in the same bracket as Fabregas or Rooney. He’s not. He’s not Messi or Ronaldo either. He is, it seems, just a gifted twenty-year old who may or may not turn in to a top-class footballer. There are worse things to be.

A glance at the other internationals sees Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner on the scoresheet. Whilst Vela is behind even Theo in the pecking order, Bendtner looks to be hitting form at just the right time. If he can put together some semblance of a goalscoring run, he could become incredibly important between now and the end of the season.

Ramseygate rumbles on. Tomorrow it’ll have fresh life injected in to it by Arsene’s press conference. My hope is that the conversation becomes less about Ryan Shawcross and Aaron Ramsey, but more about the institutional problem of dangerous tackling.

Let’s wait and see.

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