At today's FA press conference, Theo Walcott praised Chris Smalling's athleticism and technique but also revealed his organizational influence:
"He's a talker behind you, he gets you organized, which is very important—especially with a winger sometimes sleeping. I've been known to sleep in.
It's great to have a young lad wake you up at times."
Although Smalling had some nervous moments in the first half against Bulgaria, he settled well, and Walcott's comments reveal just how confident the young Manchester United defender is. Smalling's willingness to share his view of the game and guide the players ahead of him is a strong asset.
As Walcott admitted, he has a tendency to lose concentration at times and an assertive voice to assist him can only help Arsenal's attacking midfielder.
It is encouraging that the youthful players coming into Capello's team are willing to take responsibility to solve problems on the pitch—an issue that has dogged England in the past.
With Micah Richards starting the season so well, some were surprised to see the converted center-back get the nod on Friday night, but it seems that Smalling's reading of the game and purposeful communication may have given him the edge.
Richards himself has pulled out of the squad to face Wales on Tuesday with a hamstring injury, leaving Smalling a certainty to start.
Walcott also commented on how pleased he was with the three-man attacking midfield formation and how comfortable he felt interchanging with Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and, at times, Wayne Rooney.
England will be hoping that such fluid movement will be as successful against Wales at Wembley Stadium and that Smalling can help ensure another clean sheet.
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