Anyone who has watched more than a few fleeting moments of Arsenal’s games this season will notice that Theo Walcott has been, well, rubbish. If his confidence isn’t sky high he appears to forget the importance of changing direction, repeatedly running straight at his full back. That’s if he bothers running at them at all; too often he simply hoofs in a weak cross at Arsenal’s lightweight front men, rather than using that blistering pace to get to the byline or fashion something for himself.
Fortunately for Mr Capello England actually has a rather impressive cohort of wingers. With Gerrard likely to be playing on the left there is little chance that any more than four of the following will make it, and for England’s sake, one can only hope that young Theo doesn’t make the cut ahead of one of them. So, here is a comprehensive list of English wingers who should actually be in competition for a place:
1.Aaron Lennon – Somebody should take Theo Walcott, sit him down in front of television, and force him to watch clips from this man’s season. Lennon has been the shining star of a really quite exciting Tottenham team. Lightning fast and with a devastating drop of the shoulder Lennon has been terrorising left backs all season. Just ask Erik Edman or Sylvinho how hard it is to catch him. Should be an absolute shoe-in to start.
2.David Beckham – Ageing yes, but as his bright start for Milan has shown there is still life yet in one of England’s finest servants. What better alternative to Lennon’s pace and youth than Beckham’s experience and crossing? Beckham can still be a vital option, especially for late set pieces, and of course, penalties. May be his last chance to win something with England, a chance he thoroughly deserves.
3.James Milner – Fabio’s new favourite, and indeed every managers’ dream. By no means the most talented player on this list, but his phenomenal work-rate and new-found versatility should guarantee him a place in the squad at least.
4.Joe Cole – It speaks volumes for the regard with which the above players are held that a man of Cole’s talent may not make the cut. Aside from Rooney, Cole remains the most inventive player in the England set-up. Will be tricky to fit him into the England plan, but Cole’s sheer ability should squeeze him in.
5.Ashley Young – For some reason Capello just doesn’t quite fancy Young. He is quick, a fantastic dribbler, and almost certainly the best crosser of a ball in the league, but has never been able to force himself into the forefront with England. If he is to make it he’ll have to sustain the form he so often finds only in bursts.
6.Stewart Downing – Finally getting some minutes for Villa, and certainly impressing. Quite why O’Neill has been playing him on the left rather than Young is mystifying, but he remains the only genuine left-footed option. And it is quite a special left foot
7.Jobi McAnuff – Well, this one is rather in jest, but his spellbinding run against Liverpool was no fluke. His performances in both the original tie and the replay were full of menace and confidence. What they showed was exactly what Walcott is currently missing. Each time McAnuff got possession he attacked his full back, and actually believed he would beat him. If only Walcott believed in himself as much as MacAnuff he would rocket back up this list.
England’s strength on the flanks should certainly preclude Walcott’s presence at the tournament, but one can only worry that it won’t. That hat-trick against Croatia still manages to sustain him, but unless he sharpens up his form for Arsenal he should only head to South Africa as a spectator.