Theo Walcott has often been described as the Peter Pan of international football. At 26 he can no longer be considered as a hot prospect, and when he isn’t injured he can prove vital to Arsenal’s attack, though he’s never quite cut it for England.
Starting alongside Wayne Rooney and new boy Harry Kane in the attack, Hodgson obviously had visions of Walcott using his pace to get in behind the Italian defence.
Only it didn’t work that way and he was forced to reshuffle the pack after only half an hour. To put it quite simply: Walcott is just not a centre forward.
Questions were asked of his inclusion to these past two squads, as he has only just returned from a long term layoff and is currently struggling to get off the bench for Arsenal, pointing to Hodgson picking him out on reputation alone.
At the start he had no idea where to be to receive the ball, and couldn’t read the flick ons from Kane. Before the game Giorgio Chiellini highlighted Walcott as the man he feared the most thanks to his ‘terrifying pace’, but fortunately for the Juventus man that pace was nowhere to be seen.
One area where Walcott falls short, is that he doesn’t have a nasty streak to his game. Whereas a defender may feel they’ve been in a physical battle with the likes of Kane and Rooney, they just won’t get that from Theo. He’s too nice, and won’t make a nuisance of himself by sticking a boot in when needs be.
Walcott has told Arsene Wenger that he wants to play in a more central role, but with his first start with the national team in 18 months coming against one of the craftiest defences in the world he proved that he is either unready or unable to mix it with the big boys.
And though Walcott is generally preferred on the wing, his goal record for the national team is nowhere near good enough. To date he has scored just five in 38 appearances – three of which came in a single game against Croatia in 2008. Compare that to Andros Townsend, who now has three goals in seven games for the Three Lions then you have to ask yourself what all the hype is really about.
With another tournament just over a year away, Hodgson will have to ask himself some serious questions as to what Walcott can really offer him, and whether it’s time to admit that he is another player that just won’t cut it at international level despite being given the chance to prove himself through the middle as well as out wide.