North London derbies are never without their intrigue, and last weekends 3rd round FA Cup clash was no different. Both sides were coming off the back of some excellent Premier League form, and for many it was a real barometer of where the current power lay in North London.
In the end it was Arsenal who comfortably outplayed and at times outclassed Tottenham, with a 2-0 scoreline pretty much summing up the balance of play throughout. Yet aside from the manner of Arsenal’s victory most of the focus post-match was on the wellbeing of a returning Theo Walcott who had fallen awkwardly on his knee during the latter stages of the second half.
It was initially suggested to be little more than a minor tweak, but scans later revealed the severity of the winger’s injury with Arsenal putting out the following statement:
“The club regrettably announces that Theo Walcott has sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee,” Arsenal said in a statement.
“Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.”
“Everyone at Arsenal wishes Theo a speedy recovery and we look forward to seeing him back on a football pitch as soon as possible.”
With any injury like this it is always going to be emotive. People already writing off England entirely now from the World Cup and suggesting that the loss of Walcott will seek to undermine the Arsenal title challenge going forward. Now of course losing Walcott was never going to be a positive for the national side, but is it really the massive dent that people are making it out to be?
Ray Parlour has already described it as a “massive blow” for both club and country whilst Henry Winter in the Telegraph was more sceptical about the calibre of Englishman ready to fit the gaping hole left by his absence.
Theo Walcott may well be one of the most complete wide men that England have, seven goals and five assists in an injury ravaged season would point to this, but those waiting in the wings are no less talented. Whilst clearly the likes of Townsend, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sterling lack the top level experience, they may well still be the individuals to fire England forward.
We need to remember where England are as a national football team. Currently emerging from the ashes of what many labelled our ‘golden generation’ Hodgson has to rebuild going forward. A World Cup win in Rio is what we all long for, but in reality it is almost an impossibility given our resources and the calibre of opposition we are likely to face. The loss of Walcott may well just accelerate the integration of some of our rising stars into the national fold.
Hodgson is trying to form a side that isn’t so much dependent on the likes of a Gerrard or Rooney, but instead contains a team of talented individuals all able to come up with goods when called upon. A nation that doesn’t hang all its hopes on the results of a metatarsal scan or something similar.
Mourning the loss of one player is something that characterised failed England sides of the past, and something that we should look to move away from. Of course it isn’t ideal and yes it may well impact upon our chances, but from my point of view it as much an opportunity as it is a blow.