Is Theo Walcott still the future of English football?

by Matt Quinn

Saturday, January 26th, 2008
 

Theo Walcott is reportedly available for a loan move to another premiership club. The same Theo Walcott that Arsene Wenger spent £5m (rising to £12m) on just 2 years ago. The same Theo Walcott who was the surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson’s World Cup squad in 2006. The same Theo Walcott who was tipped as the future of England. A pretty spectacular fall, although it’s probably unfair to call it such a thing, as he is still only 18 years old. This hasn’t stopped the newspapers and journalists from writing off his fledging career already. The same journalists who had hailed him as the messiah and saviour for Eriksson’s pedestrian England team.

Indeed, others have pinpointed these same journalists as the catalyst for young Theo’s demise. The tired old cliché that young English talents are over hyped to unreachable levels has been wheeled out on countless occasions this week. Obviously each player has a different mental make-up, but Walcott has not had any extra exposure when compared with the media circuses that have followed the likes of Rooney and Beckham. Rooney has continued to flourish, while Beckham’s career needs no more words written about it.

Indeed, looking further afield, to destroy the notion that this is a uniquely English trait, one can point to the excitement and hype surrounding the likes of Lionel Messi and Alexandre Pato. Both youngsters, both continuing their rise to the very top, both future world-class superstars.

 

The comparisons between Messi, for me the best player in the world, and Walcott are stark. Both were spoke about with great fervour before their senior club debuts. Messi was restricted by the quota of non-EU players while 16 years old at Barca and had to wait until he obtained Spanish citizenship. The football-crazy Spanish and, in particular, Catalan public had clamoured for this mercurial talent they had heard about for so long. The publicity surrounding Messi was immense. I was fortunate enough to catch Messi’s debut in the champions league against Udinese. I had never witnessed such a talent. Pace, touch, awareness, deceptive strength and maturity about his game. Yet off the pitch there was talk of Messi and his introverted nature, yet to speak in a Barcelona dressing room. Again, here is a parallel with Walcott. However, Walcott has never threatened to reach the on pitch levels of the little Argentine.

For me, this is probably just to do with the fact that Walcott isn’t actually all that special. Nothing to do with being over-hyped, nothing to do with being taken to the World Cup, nothing to do with leaving Southampton too soon. He is talented but is unfortunately a product of the English grass-roots football, where he, no doubt, was coached into playing on the shoulder of the last defender to use his pace to reach any ball hoofed over the top. This would not have helped develop his first touch, awareness and tactical acumen. Wenger will have been working on honing these areas but Walcott, for all his raw talent, is noticeably behind his foreign peers. I believe in a few years Theo Walcott will develop into a fine player and will probably represent England on numerous occasions. However, at the moment he just isn’t anywhere near the level required to play for a team like Arsenal on a regular basis. It isn’t a fall from grace for Walcott, it is just the necessary development of an English talent failed by the youth systems in this country. He will get there, but to expect him to have the impact of foreign teenagers, Messi and Pato, is just totally unrealistic. England should just be thankful that Rooney has proved the exception.

 

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  • Paul

    I’d prob say no, he should of stayed at Southampton got more experience before he moved to Arsenal. He’s been given enough chances by Wenger but simply isn’t up to the task. He seems to spend most of time either on his ars or going round in circles.

    I think he needs to out on loan.

  • Jamie

    Ronaldo
    Messi
    Rooney

    Either Lennon.

    Walcott is no where near that level. Shame as he has the pace but nothing else to offer

  • Teffy

    Theo just needs time to adjust! Main thing is he learns how to finish under pressure. He seems to panic too much, he does the hard work of beating the players but panics in front of the keeper. Give him another year and send him on loan to get first team experience.

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