In 2006 a relatively unknown Theo Walcott was included in the England squad to go to the World Cup in Germany. The justification was that he was someone special who would at least gain invaluable experience for the future. Yet 4 years later and the precocious talent has a desperate fight on his hands to get into the England squad for South Africa.
Like many England hopefuls, Walcott suffers all too often from frustrating injury problems. Along with the likes of Ledley King, Rio Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate, Walcott spends too much time on the treatment table. This is a significant loss to Fabio Capello as the Arsenal striker has blistering pace, an attribute much in demand in modern football. In spite of Walcott’s injury problems it is also the case that he has failed to fulfil his potential. Over the past four years at Arsenal he has hardly set the football world on fire. There has been the occasional strong game or exhibition of his pace, but never a string of high quality performances.
In Walcott’s absence this season genuine competitors have emerged for the right wing berth in Capello’s team. David Beckham has continued to show his worth, and his experience may ensure his spot. Furthermore Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips, both direct replacements for Walcott’s pace have had strong seasons, Lennon particularly standing out. James Milner combines pace and power and the likes of Joe Cole and Ashley Young, despite having quiet seasons, offer options to Capello.
The selection of the wingers for the England World Cup squad is one of the most debated topics, with many players having genuine claims for inclusion. The reality is that Capello as a manager prefers players to be playing regularly and unfortunately for Walcott this has never really been the case throughout his career, never playing more then 25 league games in a season.
So with a mere 4 months until the World Cup what can Walcott do to earn a place to South Africa? A key target for all the England hopefuls is only a month away. England’s friendly against Egypt on 3rd March will provide an insight into Capello’s thoughts and Walcott must target this game. He has returned to the Arsenal first team and he needs to put in a month of solid performances, and prove his worth to Capello. If he is fit and playing I think that he will go to South Africa despite his technical flaws. He can play in several positions which is important in a tournament and he has played well for England in the qualification campaign.
Even if he does manage to get to South Africa he will still be a talent yet to materialise. He may not ever be the superstar as hoped by Arsene Wenger, and indeed without his pace he would barely be a Premier league player. Such a point is purely hypothetical however as he does possess raw pace, which if used appropriately can be totally devastating and unplayable for opposition defences. His lack of progress over the past four years is disappointing yet in the next 4 months Walcott has the opportunity to somewhat make up for this.
As his pace is his key attribute, he will not have a long career into his thirties at the top level so he must fulfil his international ambitions now. He has a real test against an international standard defence at Stamford Bridge this weekend, and with such little time left, Walcott has no time to lose to prove his credentials.