Equal Time: Theo Walcott is a talent unfulfilled
Well it certainly took Arsenal long enough. Wenger has finally got rid of the former Southampton speedster and he’s off to the blue half of Merseyside, despite him being a Liverpool fan - says a lot doesn’t it?
When Theo Walcott first burst onto the scene little over twelve years ago, we all thought “this is the next great English player”. His speed was frightening, with finishing to boot. Southampton were happy to let him move for an initial £5m fee rising to £12m. Since then, he’s stalled from a development perspective. He’s probably the first in this era of Southampton graduates who’ve moved onto bigger clubs. But in terms of progression, he’s probably the biggest failure of them all. Just think, since him, the Saints have sold Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.
Walcott went to the World Cup in Germany at 17 and did not play a single minute. Sven said it was a nice gamble and this atmospheric experience of the global showpiece would be just what he needed to stamp his mark four years later.
Fast forward four years, Theo’s now 21, having been the catalyst behind England’s imperious qualification campaign after his hat-trick in Zagreb in game 2. For England, he showed he could be that “X” factor. But generally, he was still finding his feet. After a 2010 friendly in March, Chris Waddle said this:
"I've never seen him develop. He just doesn't understand the game for me – where to be running, when to run inside a full back, when to just play a one-two. It's all off the cuff. I just don't think he's got a football brain and he's going to have problems. Let's be honest, good defenders would catch him offside every time."
Walcott’s omission from the squad started a month of calamity for the England national setup. When that was announced on 1 June, the nation collectively gasped as everyone expected him to be in the squad. Fabio Capello (belatedly) admitted his mistake of not selecting the former Arsenal man as it snowballed into England captain Rio Ferdinand getting injured in training, his replacement getting injured, then the humbling at the hands of Die Mannschaft.
It was in 2012 when Walcott made his debut at an international tournament, against average opposition, proving to be the difference maker as England came from 2-1 down to beat Sweden. That’s as good as it’s been for him on the international stage.
Last chance at World Cup
At 28, Walcott's hitting his peak and this summer could be the last chance he gets at going to the World Cup. The most recent Everton recruit has not even played 500 minutes in all competitions this season, while not starting a league game. At Everton, it’s fair to say he has three months in the Premier League to stake his claim for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s squad. Will he take it? If it’s anything like his career so far, a resounding no, but if it’s like the Walcott that burst on the scene aged 17, he could give the England manager a selection headache.