Theo Walcott Returns With Plenty To Prove For Arsenal and England

Alex StampCorrespondent INovember 25, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal in action during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Arsenal and Standard Liege at Emirates Stadium on November 24, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With his rivals for a World Cup spot advancing their case in his absence, and his club team mates once more proving that there is life without him despite Saturday's 1-0 loss away to Sunderland, the next eight months could be crucial in the young career of Theo Walcott.


Just over a year, Walcott finally began to emerge from his chrysalis with some starring roles for Arsenal and most famously a hat-trick for England in Zagreb as Croatia were put to the sword.


All of a sudden, Theo Walcott's star was firmly in the ascendant.


Unfortunately, sustaining such heights was never likely to happen. His tough luck with injuries caught up with him, and when he returned, he has struggled with his form. Towards the end of the season, as expectations were naturally inflated, bar the odd flashes of brilliance—especially a neat lob against Villarreal, Walcott struggled.


In two matches against Manchester United in the Champions League Semi-Final, he barely had a kick as Patrice Evra utterly dominated their much anticipated duel.


Then, much to Wenger's chagrin, he was whisked off to the European Under 21 Championships, where he appeared well off the pace and in the final looked a little boy lost as Germany and their wonderboy Mezut Ozil ran riot.


Now, after an injury-hit start to the season, Walcott now must face up to the reality of his situation that after a fallow year, the time has come for the real Theo Walcott to stand up.


For England, the resurgence of Aaron Lennon—whose end product has improved considerably, and is probably England's best hope to run at a full back, has placed his starting berth for the World Cup in real doubt. Plus with the options of the versatile James Milner and the perennial squad man David Beckham, Walcott finds his case for inclusion is far weaker than before.


Meanwhile Arsenal's return to form this season, has been largely without Walcott, as Arsene Wenger has seemingly discovered a wealth of young, attacking players. The onus is on Walcott himself to prove his worth for both his country and his club.


When he is on form, and free of injury there is little doubt what an asset he can be. A coruscating runner, and perhaps one of the quickest players England has produced since Michael Owen was in his prime, his ability to provide a cutting edge for his side makes him such an asset.


Even at Arsenal, hardly a team of slouches, Walcott's pace and ability to break with speed is an enviable quality to have, and will boost a team whose attacking ranks have taken blows because of injuries to Van Persie and Bendtner. With his contemporaries at Arsenal clearly making significant strides, Walcott must prove his own development has made similar progress.


Meanwhile for England, a team whose midfield lacks mobility even at full strength, he could potentially be even more key. Pace, as has forever been reported, is a quality the top international teams have.


Brazil has Kaka, Robinho, Nilmar and Ramires, Spain has Silva, Iniesta, Villa and Torres. Even France, whose place is so contentiously debate, has the likes of Ribery, Malouda, Henry and Benzema.


Hence why, in a team lacking in speedsters, Capello is so keen to accommodate Walcott. Yet for a man whose mantra for selection is based on form and fitness, Walcott's absence has been inevitable through all his struggles.


Yet now, with fitness no longer an issue, Walcott must step up and prove his form after months of fallow. Should he recapture that scintillating form which so marked the productive purple patch of his career then he could be a real asset for both club and country, but now is the time to prove it.