Walcott Alarm Clock

– In a huge surprise, Theo Walcott was omitted from the England National Team. Four years ago, he was taken to the World Cup after making zero appearances for Arsenal. Now, after being a staple of Capello’s team, he was brutally axed from the National Team. Was he performing at a high level? Undisputedly not. Did Shaun Wright-Phillips or Michael Carrick do enough to impress anybody at all? Not really. Walcott’s apparently failure to listen to orders is what did him in. Regardless, Theo thought an elaborate prank was being pulled on him when he was told he was being left off the final roster. This is Theo’s make or break moment.

– Chris Waddle’s comments have been thrown around again. Of more interest is Martin Keown’s comments:

“Under Capello it seemed as if he has been getting it right in the main, under Wenger, no, there has been a problem, whether or not that is the coaches’ fault, it has to be the players, he has just not played enough games.”

That in itself is an alarming comment. Theo is in the best possible environment for a young player’s development. The idea that he’s not improving at all is the worst possible picture of Walcott.

– Before the season started, Walcott was engaged in a tug of war between Arsenal and Stuart Pearce. To enhance his profile, Pearce desperately sought for Walcott’s involvement in the U-21 World Cup. The point of the youth internationals is not necessarily to win a trophy, although that is a fine thing as well. It is to produce players for the senior squad, just as it is at Arsenal. Instead, Walcott was taken, he did nothing of note, was benched for a game, and he came back with zero rest. Wenger gave him an extended break, but his body broke down against Valencia and he hasn’t been the same since. Theo didn’t complain when he was called up, he volunteered like the good soldier he thinks he is. What Theo needs to recognize is that the people who care about him the most is Arsenal Football Club. Why? Because we pay his wages.

– I don’t care if Walcott wasn’t good enough for the England National Team. I only care about his involvement with Arsenal. Regardless, he has been patchy and ineffective this year. Everybody knows that to be true. But why did Capello decide to play a ruse on Walcott? Almost everybody in the media believed that Walcott was a guarantee for the National Team, despite his obvious lack of form. Capello recently said that nothing in the past few fixtures changed his mind about who was his first 23 players were. Theo clearly thought he was going to make the squad, and instead, he’s probably devastated. Meanwhile, players who have not shone for England at an international level (Carrick and Wright-Phillips), players who are out of form (Heskey, Carrick, Upson, and more), and a player who has only played six minutes for England in total (Warnock) were picked. What is Capello doing? People can praise his ruthlessness, but he’s doing a terrible job in public relations. Tactically, Capello is one of the best. In the last few weeks, the England curse has descended upon Capello.

– I don’t care if Walcott is out of form; I wouldn’t take Wright-Phillips over him. What made Capello decide that Walcott couldn’t be an impact sub? Who are the players who can change a game for England on the bench? This team is destined to fail.

– Let’s bring it all back to what we actually care about. Theo and Arsenal FC. This is the defining moment in Walcott’s career. He’s hardly done anything of note for Arsenal. He’s been abandoned by Capello and England in the harshest way. It’s time to wake the fuck up or make a career for himself on a team like Aston Villa. He has the best environment around him. He has Arsene Wenger. He will still have Fabio Capello. He has good parents. In the last year, whether it’s because of injuries or something else, he’s not improved at all. His electric cameo against Barcelona lets people see a glimpse into what is possible, but every other appearance shows you just how far he has to go. When a moment like this smacks you in the face, players of the highest caliber decide to run through brick walls. I don’t know if Theo has what it takes, but if this doesn’t wake him up, nothing will.

– I have pity for the boy, but it’s a rude reminder. Time waits for nobody. Theo, next season is your senior year.

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Don’t Blame Theo

“Two words will probably haunt Sven Goran Eriksson for the rest of his career: Theo Walcott. Eriksson may have thought that the Arsenal teenager was going to be his Michael Owen in Germany in 2006. But the erratic decision backfired and for most coaches, confirmed the value of experience over youth.” Gavin Hamilton of World Soccer

For one thing, it’s quite speculative if not simply inaccurate to say that Sven “thought that the Arsenal teenager was going to be his Michael Owen in Germany in 2006.” I don’t remember ever reading or hearing Sven state anything close to having such high expectations of our injured (again) winger/striker. Theo was given a place in the World Cup squad but so was Stewart Downing. The over-rated Stewart Downing!

Isn’t that the selection that backfired?

Sven was criticized then for picking Theo but what real harm was there in picking him? At worst, he was given a spot that could have gone to another (non-existent) player who might have been more experienced and better equipped to make a difference to England’s ultimate fate. At best, he provided opposition in training for the England Left Back and competition for other wingers/strikers in the squad.

Who else was available at the time?

Sven picked and played Stewart Downing. Stewart Downing!!! STEWART DOWNING can say that he has played in a FIFA World Cup Finals tournament. WTF?!?!?

The idea that Sven made a mistake picking Theo was overblown in 2006 and it is equally over the top today to suggest that an “erratic decision backfired.” How was it erratic? If just one place in a squad of 23 players makes as big a difference as Mr. Hamilton has suggested, then the player surely must be worthy of greater expectation than was Theo. If Theo had been picked instead of Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, or even Aaron Lennon, I’d understand. He wasn’t. Those players were there. Theo was never expected to be the type of player who’d make that big a big difference.

Again, I ask which player was available who fits that profile?

That Theo was selected was more a reflection of the lack of choices for the England manager than a mistake. Some went as far as suggesting that it was Arsene Wenger who twisted Sven’s arm to pick Theo. Wenger, like any manager looking for an advantage that would benefit his player and club, promoted the idea but every other manager with a promising young player at his cllub was free to do the same.

The idea that it “backfired” leaves me scratching my head. Was Theo’s inclusion what kept England from reaching the final? I fully accept that experience is a must at any FIFA World Cup Final. The squad had experienced players in Beckham, Campbell, Neville, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Carragher, Terry, and Ashley Cole. Moreover, England’s best player (since Matt LeTissier and Paul Gascoigne) for the period before the emergence of Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, was not available for selection anyway.

Sven’s choice to bring Theo was not why England stumbled and were eventually knocked out. Look at the names listed below and among them you will see an aggregate of (non-)contributors more responsible for England’s demise than Theo.

The England 2006 World Cup squad:

1 GK ROBINSON Paul – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
2 DF NEVILLE Gary – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
3 DF COLE Ashley – (Arsenal, ENG)
4 MF GERRARD Steven – (Liverpool, ENG)
5 DF FERDINAND Rio – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
6 DF TERRY John – (Chelsea, ENG)
7 MF BECKHAM David – (Real Madrid, ESP)
8 MF LAMPARD Frank – (Chelsea, ENG)
9 FW ROONEY Wayne – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
10 FW OWEN Michael – (Newcastle, ENG)
11 MF COLE Joe – (Chelsea, ENG)
12 DF CAMPBELL Sol – (Arsenal, ENG)
13 GK JAMES David – (Manchester City, ENG)
14 DF BRIDGE Wayne – (Chelsea, ENG)
15 DF CARRAGHER Jamie – (Liverpool, ENG)
16 MF HARGREAVES Owen – (Bayern Munich, GER)
17 MF JENAS Jermaine – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
18 MF CARRICK Michael – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
19 MF LENNON Aaron – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
20 MF DOWNING Stewart – (Middlesbrough, ENG)
21 FW CROUCH Peter – (Liverpool, ENG)
22 GK GREEN Robert – (Norwich, ENG)
23 FW WALCOTT Theo – (Arsenal, ENG

The core of that last England team is still around and in their peak years. I would argue that this is England’s best chance to win a World Cup in a very long time. Potential though (as we Arsenal fans know) is a door that stays open for but so long.

If Theo is fit in time to make make a difference to Arsenal winning something this year, he might have another chance to be part of a group that fails and no doubt he’ll get to shoulder the blame. But who knows what they’ll do in South Africa! Remember, Capello is no mug.