It was a decade ago when Theo Walcott first became a household name. At the age of just 17, the unknown youngster was thrusted onto the scene when he was shockingly selected as part of Sven Goran Erikson’s England World Cup squad in 2006. Walcott hadn’t even played a minute of first team football but was on a plane sitting next to Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand.
Fast forward ten years and the Arsenal winger suffers disappointment when he is unexpectedly left out of England’s European Championship squad under Roy Hodgson.
It has been a roller-coaster career for Walcott who went from ‘boy wonder,’ to ‘failed prospect,’ to one of the Premier League’s most in-form strikers. His transformation between the three is testament to the inconsistent career he’s endured at Arsenal. Now, at the age of 27, the England star must put his mark down this season otherwise he may face a downhill struggle for the next five years.
Walcott has made a fantastic start to the 2016-17 campaign and his form has kept new signing, Lucas Perez, on the sidelines. In the opening nine fixtures, Walcott has netted five league goals, added two assists and has played 793 minutes of football. He’s scored three in both of Arsenal’s European ties against Ludogorets and Basel. This time last season, he had scored two league goals in the first eight fixtures but was in reasonably bright form, netting a further five goals in European club competition and on England duty in the European Championship qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia. However, he scored just five more goals in the season during the following seven months.
It was this dip in form which ultimately cost him a place in the England squad who competed in France but it was a familiar sight for Arsenal fans to see their number 14 fade away towards the end of the season. Walcott’s form seems to go hand-in-hand with Arsenal’s title chases; a blistering start before an underwhelming end.
Last season was slightly more encouraging for Walcott though. He made 45 appearances in all competitions for club and country throughout the season, almost doubling the number he made the year before and in 2013-14, as he struggled to cement himself as a regular in the Arsenal squad. His best season came in 2012-13 when he netted 14 league goals, including a hat-trick against Newcastle United, and a run of four consecutive games with a goal during January 2013.
However, his exclusion from the England squad this summer was a career-turning point for Walcott. This season could be his most important. He’s no longer the winger who can be forgiven for making the wrong decisions or failing to produce a good enough delivery. He’s 27 years-old and has to start producing regularly good performances in order to revitalise his international career. So far this season he’s kept Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain off the scene but Walcott cannot afford to drop off in the new year.
His Arsenal career never really shot off due to inconsistencies and competition from like-minded players like Oxlade-Chamberlain. This season, he’s been given the opportunity to shine and so far has taken it with both hands. Arsene Wenger has shown a tremendous amount of faith in the attacker but Walcott must start delivering on a regular basis. A good season with Arsenal this year may increase his chances of performing for England and time is running out for him to cement his position in the Arsenal starting line-up.
So far this season, he’s been one of the Gunners’ most impressive performers. It seems Walcott’s summer away from international football may have spurred him on in the early stages of the 2016-17 season. If he can maintain the high levels he’s set so far, Arsenal and Walcott could be celebrating trophy success at the end of the season.