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

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport -

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;

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