Each week, A Different League takes an emerging issue from the Premier League and gathers the viewpoint of three of our expert writers. This week:
With the England squad for the European Championship qualifiers announced yesterday, is Theo Walcott the answer to the team’s recent problems?
Alex Bath: “If Theo Walcott is the answer then people have seriously misunderstood the questions the English national team face. There is no doubting Walcott’s talent. He has performed on many occasions. Walcott’s problem is he rarely has a run of games where he has performed. He may have started to take steps in that direction by being key for Arsenal this season.
The issue for England is the lack of ideas, the lack of options and the mundane regularity of every squad and starting eleven. The World Cup will be remembered for the complete no show of several players. The issue is that when established stars didn’t perform, there were no other options. The answer to the problems is to produce a squad. Spain and Argentina, for example, all have players on the bench that can turn the game when nothing is happening. Tevez not playing well? Throw on Aguero. Iniesta being marked out of the game? Bring on Fabregas. England have one plan, in fact worse than that, they have one inflexible plan.
Walcott represents the answer to the problem, but he is not the answer himself. Wilshere, Rodwell, Adam Johnson and Michael Dawson need to join Walcott in the squad regularly. When Frank Lampard is playing poorly then Jack Rodwell should be able to jog onto the pitch with no doubt in his mind he can fill the gap. England’s recent squads have been full of players who haven’t performed for years. There is young talent in England, and the issue for the national team is the alarming regularity they get overlooked. Answer that and you start to answer the national teams problems.”
Frank McCann: “It is hard to deny that Theo Walcott has been in good form recently. He is playing good football and has scored four goals in his last two games which is a very good return for any player.
However, we have to take into account the quality of the opposition he is playing. Lets face it, he bagged a hat-trick against a poor Blackpool side and although he played well against Blackburn on Saturday, he hasn’t been tested significantly yet.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to criticise the player, he has done very well lately. I’m just wary of the way the English media has jumped on the Walcott Bandwagon. He has not come up against any world-class left back this season, and until I see him terrorising the likes of Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole I will not be sure of how far the young winger has progressed over the last year.
So is he the answer the England team’s recent problem? Of course he’s not! The team’s problems cannot be solved by one player. That is like saying the only problem England had in South Africa was the right side of midfield. It was a lot more than that.
The pressure built from the media didn’t help matters, but Fabio Capello’s inabilty to play some of his players in their strongest positions was a big reason why they failed.
Theo Walcott certainly deserves his recall to the England squad, but then again its about time that Capello considers giving some new players an opportunity also. His current squad couldn’t cut it when it mattered so there is no harm giving some other players a chance.”
James McLean: “No – at least not solely. His inclusion is definitely a benefit to the England side – his new-found enthusiasm could be just the tonic the existing stars need to lift themselves out of this apparent depression they have with pulling on the Three Lions shirt. With Walcott’s inclusion, the possibility definitely exists that the players could start once again to see their international duty as a pleasure rather than a chore.
That said, it is unfair to heap such enormous expectations on these young shoulders without at least giving them some experience upon which to base these assumptions. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20 vision, and when Capello initially dropped Walcott from the World Cup squad opinion was mixed. Now, however, people ridicule the coach for refusing to include arguably England’s brightest young talent since a certain Mr. Rooney stepped up to the plate.
Recent criticism appears harsh, though I’m sure even Theo himself would admit his crossing needs some work before he can truly expand his repertoire out on the wing. I do not think his selection would be “the answer” as such, but more I do feel it would be a step towards the answer. We need some new faces to keep the experienced pros on their toes, and Walcott’s versatility means he could ensure more than one of the seasoned veterans are peering nervously over their shoulders come selection time.”