The Libero - Capello was right to snub Walcott
Published: 02 Jun 2010 - 06:47:18
Just as it did four years ago, the name of Theo Walcott dominates the headlines the morning after the announcement of England's World Cup squad.
As a untried and untested fresh-faced whipper snapper back in 2006, Walcott was selected by Sven-Goran Eriksson to go to Germany, despite having never played a Premier League game for his club side.
It was one of Sven's more bizarre tactical decisions, and one which attracted its fair share of publicity. Needless to say, it came as no surprise when the then 17-year-old Arsenal winger warmed the bench for entire tournament, the winger having to settle for a role as video diarist rather than wing wizard.
Fast forward to yesterday's announcement and the tables were turned. This time Walcott - still the same fresh-faced whipper snapper, only older and with more games under his belt - was overlooked by the latest incumbent of England's managerial hotseat. Yet here we are, talking about him once again.
Walcott now faces the prospect of watching the action in South Africa not from a bench at the side of the pitch, but from the comfort of a couch in his own living room. Still, another video diary is always an option.
Last week Walcott was quoted as saying how much be enjoyed playing for England on merit. Now, he said, he feels he deserves to be an international player, unlike four years ago when, by his own admission, he "didn't deserve to play, or to be in the squad at all".
But did he merit winning a place in Fabio Capello's final 23-man squad this time around? Can he really count himself unlucky not to have made it? No, on both counts.
Walcott is a frustrating player, on a number of levels. His blistering pace is unquestionable, but he fails to use it to his best advantage. It's all well and good being able to run like Usain Bolt, but without knowing what to do once opposition defenders have been left for dead, that speed is quickly - no pun intended - rendered useless.
All too often Walcott picks the wrong option when in a good position. Time and again exasperated Arsenal fans have found themselves groaning with heads in hands as he goes for goal when he should pick out a killer pass, or vice versa. And when he does make the right decision, more often than not the execution is poor.
His potential, the idea of how good he could be - and, more to the point, his failure to realise that - only serves to compound the frustration at those misplaced passes, overhit crosses and skied shots.
We've been told on a regular basis ever since Arsene Wenger plucked him from Southampton that the boy can go on to achieve great things. The question is, when?
Walcott is still just 21, but the fact is that he has not progressed much in the four years he has spent at Arsenal, if at all. That sluggishness, at complete odds to his pace, is as surprising as it is worrying. Surprising, considering Wenger's commitment to developing young talents, and worrying in that if it was going to happen, if Walcott was going to blossom as a player, then surely it would be evident by now.
As it is, Walcott is showing no signs of maturing any time soon. Perhaps he is suffering from being thrust into the spotlight with that shock call-up to the World Cup in 2006. Perhaps we just expected too much from him.
But, given his latest mediocre season, Walcott no more deserves a place in Capello's squad than he did in Eriksson's four years ago. And he must now be wondering if he will ever get to play at a World Cup.
23 IN PICTURES
England World Cup squad: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham); Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa); Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City); Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
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- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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