Time running out for Walcott to meet great expectations
Arsenal’s forgotten man looks set to miss out on another World Cup finals for England, but the perception of a player on the wane is different to the reality
It is hard to believe that in 16 months’ time, Theo Walcott will hit 30, forever destined to be the oldest teenager in football and, even though he has grown up over the years, he must feel like those former child prodigies of Hollywood who are perceived as simply an older version of their true selves.
The Walcott years have never been as simple as they were in the months after he signed for Arsenal in January 2006, when he played just twice for England in friendlies, went to a World Cup finals without playing, and in the absence of much evidence, everyone was left to imagine the reality. Now there looms another crisis in the Walcott story, which, coming as it does in a World Cup season, should be no surprise.
The latest falling out of favour with Arsene Wenger seems to have been more toxic than those before it and, although Walcott will be in the Arsenal squad to face BATE Borisov in the Europa League tonight, it is little consolation for how little he has played this season. He has suffered from a serious infection for the past three weeks but has trained in recent days and is ready to play, a rare opportunity given how far back he finds himself in the queue.
You might date his latest exile back to Arsenal’s defeat against Crystal Palace on April 10, previous to which Walcott had already scored 19 goals for the 2016-17 season, including against Manchester City eight days earlier. Arsenal were beaten 3-0 at Selhurst Park, a damaging regression in form and, as captain, Walcott made some startling observations afterwards.
“I think they [Palace] wanted it more,” he said to Sky Sports. “You could tell. They wanted it more;