Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Walcott Problem

Theo Walcott is thriving tenuously in the same way that, abroad, Michael Owen built an indelible reputation as one of the finest strikers in the sport; a once speedy prodigy at France '98, zig-zag sprinting his fifty-yard path towards Carlos Roa's goal, before telling Paul Scholes to mind his own, and netting to the astonishment of a global audience.

But not quite in the same way. For Walcott, it was a superfluous, pubescent call-up in the last World Cup and, soon after, a hat-trick in a qualifier that safeguarded his critical future. Looking at both Owen's and (so far) Walcott's careers, is it insensitive to question whether injuries have actually protected their reputations more than they have thwarted their achievments?

Unlike the Liverpool (or) Manchester United legend (?), Walcott still doesn't know his best position, has neither scored nor assisted consistently when fit, and is a bit-part player even in an under victorious Arsenal squad. But if Owen lost his legs, he never lost his Morientes-Inzaghi analogous poach mastery, an accomplished goalscorer, but perhaps not the world-beater some Wembley members would like to claim. However neither club nor international manager seems to want Walcott up front - his boyhood and best position.

Like Owen, it's running in and behind a defence where Walcott is at his most comfortable: not on the wing, where his unwillingness to terrorise full backs and his inability to whip in a cross have led to three assists in thirty appearances for the Arsenal 'winger' this season. Worrying, when compared with Lennon's 12 in 24 or Adam Johnson's 7 in 15. In Ashley Cole's heart of hearts (lol), he must fear defending against Aaron Lennon, even Adam Johnson, Ashley Young or Shaun Wright-Phillips, more than he does, Walcott, on Premiership match days.

That Mail writers, Martin Samuel and Matt Lawton, have selected Walcott in their England vs. USA team sheets, says more about the dire state of quixotic, statistics-neglecting, sports journalism in this country than it does about the Arsenal substitute's ability. I'm not interested in watching a 100-metre sprinter at a World Cup. I want our no.7 to dazzle with his footwork, to supply Rooney and co, and to keep the ball when he darts past his opposite man.

Theo Walcott has won all the critical protection of an early Oasis album or a glamorous education. Only there is no satisfaction for the unblinkered football fan in replaying the what-was and what-could-have-beens amid the cruel gaze of a lurking major tournament.

He is still young. There is still time. The time is not now.

1 comment:

  1. Thing is, Walcott possibly does know his best position... he's a striker? Or at least he wants to be but Wenger with Henry, Van persie etc has never needed Walcott upfront so maybe hejust can't get his head into his wide position. It seems that he does quite well when he comes on in the 70th minute and the shape has dropped a little, due to fatigue. When he starts games and when keeping shape is important, it appears as though he doesn't know where he is supposed to be. Maybe he doesn't think like a footballer or maybe he's a striker at heart? Or, maybe he's just very, very fast and that's why he's playing? I don't mean to belittle the lad because he has done some outstanding things on occassion, just not often enough. Right choice in taking Lennon to the WC, more confident all round.