Early morning article for you…
Theo Walcott is a man in demand.
The England international winger / striker has been a ray of sunshine in our slightly less than average season, with some brilliant performances catching the eye. The young forward has the pace, skill and dribbling ability to change games, and he has done that for Arsenal this season as well as England. His hat-trick against Croatia showed all England fans what the player is made of, and it may have come to his detriment.
Theo started the season well, and with him in our team, we seemed to be able to push the play back a bit – the opposition scared of his pace. Unfortunately for him and for us, he was injured for about 4 months of the season, a period where we were unable to find the net in 4 or 5 successive home games. He came back to the team in time for the run in and aided our revival and securing of fourth place. The player scored our goal against Chelsea in the FA cup semi final and his finishing is definitely coming along, with the rest of his game.
As the season has drawn to a close, the England Under 21 Championship kicks off – due to kick off in about 2 weeks, and Stuart Pearce has been given his wish and has been able to call Theo up for the finals. Theo has played a part in getting the Under 21’s there, so you can see from both his and Pearce’s view, it is good to have him there. But in addition to this, Fabio Capello has also called him up to the senior squad – which basically means that the player will not have any rest from now until the start of the season.
Arsene spoke on the FA’s decision:
“My feeling is that I am against it. I let it be known to the FA that he should not play in both national teams during the holiday period. It is difficult for us to accept, but the rules are on the side of the federation and we cannot do anything about it. It is not logical that he plays for the first team and the U21s during the holiday period. They (the European Championship) finish on 29th June and we start training on 6th July.”
There are certain rules, that we cannot contest, and the rules of country call ups is something we can’t do anything about.
“Capello is comprehensive and Pearce is less comprehensive. It is the normal Fifa dates. The basic problem is, can you use a player for two different national teams during the holiday period? I do not want Theo to stop playing for the U21s, but I think that during the holiday period he should choose one or the other. He wants to play. The player wants to play and I can understand that.”
The player has just finished the season with us, and will now travel with the full England squad for the two qualifiers against Kazikstan and Andorra before joining the Under 21’s for their month of football. He’ll return to training, play some friendlies and the Champions League qualifiers, before he embarks on a more congestion season due to next Summer’s tournament before he then flys out to South Africa for the World Cup. In all of this, I cannot see where Theo will have a chance to rest. Since he came back for us until the end of July 2010, the boy won’t get a week off – and that’s not fair on us, because if anyone is going to suffer, then surely it will be us – the club – the people who pay his wages. I can understand where Arsene is coming from – playing for one of these teams would allow the boy to have some rest.
Fabio Capello has been part of the decision making process on this, and has backed the fact that Theo’s in both squads:
“Yes, but he is young. Stuart Pearce spoke with the players and the player was happy to play with the under-21s. I also understand Arsene because he said he needed to take a holiday. But he did not play during the winter. His holiday was in the winter. When you arrive at the end of the season you are not fresh. It is a very long season, here more than the other countries because we have one competition more and in the last three or four years the most important teams, the big four, have been in the semi-final of the Champions League.
Indeed, Theo has had a few months off, but that was through injury and I doubt that means he’ll be able to play for 18 months without a single week’s break.
“I know that not only physically but also mentally you have to be very, very strong for this period and you spend a lot of energy. In Germany there is a mid-season break where play is suspended for one month, then play Sunday-Wednesday, Sunday-Wednesday after that. This is very important. Here at Christmas you have to play. You have to understand the right of the league and the money for the clubs, it is not easy to find a solution.”
In a weird way, it would be beneficial for us for the England Under 21’s to fail in the group stage. But in reality, it’s something Arsene has to cater for – potentially allowing Theo to start the season later – it’s not ideal, but it looks like the FA will force his hand. Frustrating handling by the England manager and FA, but what can we do?
I’ll be back later today with a view of the rest of the world of Arsenal.