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Theo Walcott's England form does not erase his Arsenal gains

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Theo Walcott was criticized for his England form, but such criticism is unfair.

England v Malta - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Theo Walcott has been criticized in some quarters for a lacklustre performance for England over the latest international break. While the 27-year old would’ve preferred better results from around 140 minutes against Malta and Slovenia, he was not alone in performing poorly, with Jordan Henderson, Wayne Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli all underwhelming. Three of those players are midfielders, and the other is a winger. That is important for it is those three who were supposed to provide Lingard, and in particular, Walcott.

Writing in the Guardian, Dominic Fifield opined

Walcott was supposed to supply some edge and these two fixtures, his first starts for his country in 12 months, represented an opportunity to transpose buoyant club displays on to the national stage, but his response was far too timid and way too peripheral.

Despite the headline, Walcott did not disappear. What he did was the same for Arsenal: he worked harder, he made an effort to contribute defensively, and to get into good positions. Walcott’s turnaround is not an addition of incredible quality to his game, but rather a change in attitude. At 27, Walcott is not going to become a player who can conjure something from nothing.

At Arsenal, as we wrote last month, Walcott’s form is the result of working harder to obtain the benefits of playing with Mesut Özil, Alexis and Alex Iwobi. At England, he has the blundering Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli, a player who is not a creator but really a second striker. Walcott’s game is based on quick combinations and intelligent runs in behind. England have no player who can take advantage of his qualities, and thus Walcott has often looked out of place.

This weekend, he will again link up with his club teammates. A player who looked lost for country will probably look invigorated for club. It is because Arsenal, and Arsène Wenger know how to get the best out of a willing Theo Walcott, while a succession of England players and managers do not.