The first thing I want to say is this is not an article bashing Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. After all, the player has just had his best season for the club during which he also signed a new contract. He’s still only 24-years old and will undoubtedly continue to improve.
But I hope the area in which we see the biggest improvement will be between his ears. Looking at last night’s match between England and Brazil, and leaving aside all Arsenal bias (or trying to), I’d have to say Theo had a stinker. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times he caused an England attack to break down, either by choosing the wrong option, or by a misplaced or underweighted pass. And while it’s unfair to judge on the basis of one game, his link-up play with Rooney was almost non-existent.
It was left to another young Arsenal star, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to come on and inject an immediate dose of excitement into England’s forward play. Not only was his goal superbly taken, but his presence on the field seemed to rejuvenate other team members, particularly Rooney. Alas, and not for the first time, Theo reacted by simply fading into the background. In fact, he was more or less anonymous for most of the second half.
I want to mitigate Theo’s performance by saying that he wasn’t the only England player to have a below par evening. Others, including more senior players, made their share of loose passes and looked uneasy with the ball at their feet, especially in the first half. Perhaps the effects of a lengthy season, together with the long-haul trip and the occasion of the match all took their toll.
Can Arsenal learn anything from the event? We already know that the Ox has huge potential, both as an impact player and as a long term regular starter. He’s always claimed to favour a more central position (who hasn’t?), but perhaps his claims should now merit a little more respect. Last night he showed us how well he could link with Rooney – but, of course, we know Rooney’s not coming to the Emirates. Don’t we?
As for Theo, I suspect many Arsenal fans experienced a certain feeling of déjà vu watching him last night against Brazil. In recent years, the cries of delight have outnumbered those of frustration for Walcott watchers, but those early memories persist. If TW14 could just work on developing his footballing mind, he’d be on the road to legend status. As it is, the Ox might well just beat him to it.