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In Crisis, Opportunity

In Crisis, Opportunity

Theo Walcott will undoubtedly be a very disappointed young man today. Much has been written about how supportive a family unit he has (I see his brother, his dad and his girlfriend sitting in amongst the supporters at every away match bar none) and he will doubtless be blanketing himself in their support once again. It marks a fascinating dichotomy that four years ago Walcott was the shock inclusion; this time around he is the headline exclusion. Such has been life in the fledgling career of Theo Walcott, everything he does creates headlines which is unusual for one so mild mannered.

But whilst Walcott may be wallowing in melancholy this evening, I hope he sees this blow to his personal pride as a challenge. That`s what separates good footballers from great footballers, mentality. That`s why Zinedine Zidane`s name will echo in the annals of football history, whilst the names Gascoigne and Ronaldinho will be footnotes for what might have been had they concentrated on their skills as opposed to more Bacchalian pursuits. Walcott is a player that still has his flaws and despite his tender years, it feels like we have been waiting for him to explode. We thought the sixty yard run at Anfield might be the catalyst, some felt the hat trick in Zagreb would light the blue touch paper- I thought for a moment the substitute appearance against Barcelona at home, where he transformed the game, might be the making of him. Yet these seemingly epoch making moments have only ever transpired to be flashes of lightning in a summer night sky. However, you get the feeling that definitely, this time, how Theo reacts to this rejection will be the making or breaking of the young man.

Walcott will experience something very rare and alien to him this summer, though the focus of attention may be on him for the next 24-48 hours, once the players board the plane to South Africa, he will be out of the spotlight, forced to look on from the shadows like Mersault on his doorstep. This reflective time out of the spotlight could do Theo the power of good for a number of reasons. Firstly, he might have to negotiate the anger phase. It is here he might consider how his manager warned him not to take part in a stupid U-21 tournament last summer. England committed the ridiculous folly of selecting him for two summer qualifiers for the full side and then for a meaningless junior tournament. Wenger presciently warned: "'I don't want to stop Theo from playing for the Under-21s, but during the holiday period, they should choose one or the other. I have let them know that it is not logical that he plays for the first team and the Under-21s during the holiday period, they finish on June 28 and we start training on July 6. Of course he wants to play, and I can understand that as well.'

Wenger phoned Walcott twice advising him not to play for both sides, after a long season with Arsenal, playing a full schedule of matches for two different teams during the summer break a year before a World Cup was always going to be a stupid idea. The ramifications on Walcott`s fitness would be obvious and so it proved, Theo never really got into his stride after a procession of niggling injuries. The great irony is, after years of Wenger being xenophobically derided for not doing enough to develop English talent, it was the England team themselves that destroyed the form and fitness of their own player. It has been the media that has most rabidly tried to diminish the player they hyped up to pathetically unrealistic expectations that has torn apart his every move in an England shirt, whilst other players apparently not rated (Heskey, Carrick, Barry) are not pored over with quite the same delightful zeal, the same sense that the whole nation is willing them to fail. Walcott might consider now that he`s been playing to wrong crowd, I hope in future he listens to Wenger and tries to please the paymaster. Wenger`s tutelage of young players is peerless and Walcott would do well to follow his words, in trying to please everybody in life, you often please no-one. Listen to Arsene first Theo and the rest will come along.

That said, I happen to think the decision to leave Walcott out is the wrong one from England`s point of view. There`s no doubting that he can be a frustratingly inconsistent player, but I fail to see what Wright Phillips and Lennon have ever done on the big stage to suggest they could set South Africa alight. Lennon is a good player who can cut your average clogger from Bolton or Hull City to ribbons. But Walcott has a history of big game contributions- Barcelona, Liverpool in Europe, A,C. Milan, Chelsea at Wembley and in Cardiff as well as Zagreb. Lennon does not have that kind of decoration on his CV yet. At the very least Walcott is your ideal impact sub, if England are losing to Germany with ten minutes to go of a World Cup Quarter Final and you need to change the game, would you look to Wright Phillips or Walcott? We know Wright Phillips is average, we know Theo is inconsistent, but who is more likely to dash past three defenders in the last minute and save the game? That said, Capello is one of the world`s best coaches and I believe his choices deserve respect- even if I would have taken Walcott myself.

But England`s loss can be Arsenal`s gain. With the summer off, Walcott can come back fresh and raring to go next season, sans the physical and mental fatigue, away from the bitching of England`s hysterical support and hopefully with a fresh outlook and a healthier body. The setback should be used as fuel to succeed and prove himself, to work on his flaws away from the oppressive spotlight. To this end, it is easy to forget that Samir Nasri suffered a similar disgruntlement as Raymond Domenech shunned him for the French squad. Nasri too is a player who began the season with injury and who frustrated with the impression that he was capable of greater consistency to match his devastating skill set. Nasri too has the same motivations and frustrations and opportunities for reflection as Walcott. From Arsenal`s point of view, this means that two of Arsenal`s most used attacking weapons will spend the summer with their feet up and the minds burning with injustice. Nasri and Walcott are both of an age where opportunity will knock once more.Neither will even be in their prime by the time of the 2014 World Cup. Ally this to the fact that Arshavin, Eduardo and Rosicky`s respective countries aren`t South Africa bound and Arsenal should have a very fresh attack when we kick the season off in August. The best thing we can do is show our support to the likes of Nasri and Walcott come August and hope that their frustrations bear the fruits and sow the seeds of our delight.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday June 1 2010
Time: 9:26PM


I think Walcott was hard done by, and whereas last time he was lucky to go, this time I think he deserved his place. He appears to have been the scapegoat for two pretty poor team performances in the warm-ups. But then again the handling of all players, selections for these 'trial' games, not playing Dawson or Parker was all the fault of our Sainted Manager who can do no wrong. We'll see.
01/06/2010 21:37:00
Have got to wonder whether Fab has any idea of what he has done. Theo can win a game with one piece of class. Heskey could play every minute for a week and do nothing overly interesting. Parker is another that would have been in my squad.The way the team has played lately it needs someone like him to give it some drive. Gerard has been off key for a while now and a lot is now banked on Barry recovering. Will we never learn.
SFC Forever
01/06/2010 21:48:00
For my own selfish reasons, I was hoping this would happen because it just might be the kick up the rear Theo needs.
01/06/2010 22:15:00
It would always be a hard for an Italian manager broght up on Italian football to trust someone as young as Theo. The chosen squad with an average age of 29 would always make Capello feel more comfortable. It can often work in knockout competitions that the team that makes fewest mistakes can achieve most even if it does have fewest surprises. Its a disappointment for Theo but if instead of trying to impress the selectors last summer he had concentrated on playing well for his club side he would have increased his chances of impressing them more. The more he can focus on that objective next season the more chance he has of achieving any other career goals he might set himself.
01/06/2010 22:18:00
I have to say as a spurs fan, first class article, nothing suprised me today with the squad, apart from not taking Theo over S W-P. Give it 5 games tops and they will all be home...
spu 4 life
01/06/2010 22:25:00
I think it is big mistake by Capello, whatever you think about Walcott his impact as a late substitution is one of the best around. Personally I am big Theo fan but I don't he warranted a place in the starting XI based on his recent form and Capello might believe that in Lennon he has a carbon copy of Theo with more experience at international level, so I can understand trying to utilise the limited number of squad places but I Walcott offers a lot more explosiveness from the bench than both Lennon Wright-Phillips. And when in form Joe Cole should be dead-set starter for England but what has he done this season to merit a place. And don't even get me started on Heskey... but as you point out LD this could motivate Theo to become a better player a bit like the "no footballing brain" comment did for a while.
01/06/2010 22:40:00
There are too many inconsistencies in Capello's squad selection. He said he wouldn't pick crocks and he has, he has picked a woefully out of form Upson ahead of the most in form Central defender in the 30 Dawson, He has picked Carragher who helped England Qualify by...........Adam Johnson really impressed for City the last half of the season keeping Dead Wright Philips out of the side yet the latter is selected to go to a world cup ahead of him? Matthew Etherington and Ashley Young had better seasons than SWP but he seems like a good pal of a lot of the players, a nice guy to have around the sqaud........
01/06/2010 22:42:00
Walcott has remained a one trick pony. Lennon can gallop just as quickly, but can at least deliver a better final ball. Walcott could just as easily play rugby, as he knows as much about football technique as he does rugby!
01/06/2010 22:53:00
Cherundulo/Spector are probably crying tears of joy.
01/06/2010 23:03:00
^^ Yes but that is one badass mutha*****in pony.
01/06/2010 23:04:00
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