Walcott finds himself at a career crossroads

Arsenal’s Theo Walcott was dealt a bitter blow on Tuesday afternoon when Fabio Capello wielded his axe cutting his 30-man provisional squad to 23 ahead of the World Cup in South Africa and the 21-year-old is set to be left at home. His absence is arguably the most significant out of the players who have been omitted and it has sparked much debate amongst experts and fans, but where will the young forward go from here?

For Walcott it is a complete reversal of fortune as he was the shock inclusion into the England squad for the 2006 World Cup as a 17-year-old. Former Three Lions coach Sven Goran Eriksson raised a few eyebrows at the time as the player had not featured for England before…he didn’t even play him in the actual tournament.

Now the head coach of the Ivory Coast Eriksson said on the Walcott issue: “I’m surprised because four years ago he was the golden boy, or (showed that he) can be the golden boy.”

(…golden boy? Not really Sven, he hadn’t even kicked a ball for Arsenal at the time.)

He added: “Maybe the expectation on him was too big, I don’t know. The only person that can speak about that is [Arsene] Wenger. Four years ago I thought he could be a great player – and he still can be of course.”

It is interesting that Eriksson brings Arsene Wenger’s name into the equation as after four years at Arsenal Walcott has not fulfilled his potential, is this an indictment on Le Prof’s management?

When Walcott arrived in the red half of north London he came with the tag of being a promising young player with bags of pace…he’s still a young player who is lightning quick, but he’s little else and suffering something of a confidence crisis. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to say Wenger has stunted his development the forward may benefit from a change of scenery.

But where would he go? I doubt a top four move could be on the cards, but perhaps he could thrive in a team like Aston Villa or even Manchester City (should Bellamy leave he could play the opposite wing to Adam Johnson in a three-pronged attack). However, with his stock falling of late he doesn’t have a great resale value and it is unlikely that Arsenal would even contemplate a deal, so he may have to fight for his place at the north London club.

It must have been a hammer blow to be left out this time around but personally I think Capello has done him a huge favour as Walcott must now sort his head out and finally grow up (and that doesn’t mean growing dodgy facial hair). His flashes of brilliance are indications of his raw talent. His hat trick against Croatia was particularly impressive as well as his performance against Barcelona at the Emirates, but he needs to perform on a consistent basis and I believe he had already started on this when he was practicing crossing with David Beckham.

He has come into so much criticism from all angles, most damningly (and quite amusingly) Sky Sport’s Richard Keys, whose comments blasting Walcott were accidently picked up by Dutch TV. He said: “get up you stupid little boy, you [Walcott] have been shite son, in your daft pink boots – absolute rubbish.”

It wasn’t that long ago that people were throwing criticism (not quite as harsh as Theo’s) towards Aaron Lennon saying that he was nothing more than pace and couldn’t pick out a cross. Perhaps Walcott should take some heart from the fact that Lennon has since improved his game significantly and has put himself right into England contention, ahead of Walcott himself.

One thing he has to learn to do is listen. Capello axed the young Gunner because he failed to obey orders to stay out wide in England’s World Cup warm-up friendlies, thus playing himself out of contention.

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