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The England blog - Walcott fails to convince

Published: 08 Apr 2010 - 13:49:14

After last week's influential cameo against Barcelona, all eyes were on Arsenal's Theo Walcott at the Nou Camp.

It was Walcott's chance to prove he could have impact for 90 minutes, and not just after coming on as a substitute.

Throughout his career, the winger has been subject to debate - are his attributes refined enough to warrant a starting place in Arsenal's side? Or is he best deployed as an impact substitute?

Sadly, judging by Tuesday night's performance, the 21-year-old still falls in the latter category.

The majority of Arsenal's attacking play in Spain was channelled down the right side, which gave Walcott plenty of opportunity to excel. Unfortunately, Eric Abidal and, after the Frenchman was substituted, Maxwell, got the measure of the winger too easily in Spain.

Both full-backs ushered Walcott into using his pace in the wrong areas, running with the ball into corners that led to nowhere. His dribbling was a polar opposite to that of the mesmeric Argentine Lionel Messi on the opposing side - it lacked guile and craft. Later on he was forced into coming inside, which faded him out of the game completely and his best quality, speed, was nullified.

Even Walcott's assist for Nicklas Bendtner's goal lacked poise. The pass was played slightly behind the striker and the Danish international had to work hard to poke the ball past Victor Valdes. A player with confidence would have certainly attempted a strike rather than squaring to a team-mate.

It may have been a different game if Abou Diaby had found Walcott with a pass shortly after their goal. The winger had already raced past Abidal, and if found, could have changed the tie for a second time. But it wasn't to be.

Of course, Walcott has proved in the past he can make a telling contribution to a big game. You only have to look at his hat-trick in Zagreb, and his goal against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final two years ago to realise he has potential. But time is running out to convince Fabio Capello that he deserves a starting place in South Africa.

The England boss has picked him on several occasions, which shows that the Italian clearly has faith in him.

His pace can be used effectively when playing counter-attacking football. But it's the other aspects of his game that causes scepticism. The final ball is a vital component in the play of any winger. Walcott still seems to be lacking the consistency with the accuracy of both his crossing and his shooting, something that Aaron Lennon, another contender for England's right side, has greatly improved on and has paid dividends for him this season.

This year's World Cup, like the last one, may come too soon for Walcott. He still bears a too-similar resemblance to the raw player that arrived from Southampton in 2006. Although his game has improved over those years and he has plenty of time to improve, he still struggles to shed the tag of being an impact player.

He is certainly a player worth considering taking to South Africa, but whether he warrants a starting place in England's team in June is a different matter. Once again, Walcott may be resigned to changing his side's fortunes from the bench.

READ CHRIS DAVIES EVERY THURSDAY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Chris Davie
Chris hails from Maidstone, Kent, and has written on football for plenty of websites we won’t care to mention. He’s even banged out some boot reviews. A qualified level two FA coach, Chris follows Chelsea so don’t expect calls for Frank Lampard to be dropped in his England-focused blog. “I’m an England sceptic,” he says. “You won’t catch me with a St George’s cross painted on my face.” Read him every Thursday as England build-up to the World Cup finals in South Africa.

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