Then again, the Daily Express reckon Chelsea could make a bid for Theo this summer, especially as our club have not started contract negotiations yet with one of our most saleable assets! Do we never learn? At least, the Robin van Persie’s mum and wife have both gone public to say our number 10 should stay. I wonder if Theo’s nearest and dearest will do the same? I hope so, but I’m not sure they will. Theo’s a Liverpool fan, so I won’t be surprised if he ends up there, playing in a 4-4-2 with England’s Glen Johnson just behind him as right back.
Arsenal’s Theo should start for England, instead of the Ox
You’ve got to love Stewart Robson. The former Arsenal midfielder is making quite an impact in the media nowadays. I have to say I really enjoy his tactical analysis on Arsenal Player, although I don’t always agree with his opinions. For instance, he suggested on Sky Sports yesterday that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should start for England instead of Theo Walcott. I’ve always had the feeling that Stewart is not a big fan of Theo. Maybe it’s because Theo relies on his speed so much, in comparison with the Ox, who relies more on guile and technical ability.
I think it’s a great shame that so many pundits on Sky Sports underrate Theo’s qualities. I am sure he will prove them wrong if he gets enough playing time at Euro 2012. Pace and finishing makes him my first choice, although I would try him in the Ashley Young role, perhaps. Then I could play the Ox on the right wing and we’d have two Arsenal players in the starting line up.
It was interesting seeing the Ox’s England debut against Norway. ITV’s summariser, Andy Townsend was waxing lyrical about the Ox’s every touch. I love the Ox as much as the next guy, but some of the media coverage he has been getting of late is a little bit over the top. Luckily for us, I feel sure he has the temperament to handle the adulation.
It is also lucky that Theo has a thick skin and can deal with all the flak – much of it undeserved – that has come his way since he joined Arsenal. The third bit of luck concerns Stewart Robson. England fans must be so glad he’s not managing the national side, as he would have The Three Lions playing with a back three instead of the back four. Of course that system can work sometimes, but generally it has fallen out of favour for a reason.
Robson seems to think that fullbacks have to do more running in a traditional 4-4-2 then in the system he favours. However, whenever I have witnessed a 3-5-2 formation, I have seen wingbacks trying to be wingers and fullbacks simultaneously. In terms of work rate, it was really tough on those wide men.
Back in the 1990s, I used to write match reports at Fratton Park. At the time, the manager of Portsmouth was none other than former Arsenal captain Alan Ball. He played with wingbacks and three central defenders, and although the football was attractive it wasn’t always successful. I always felt that Pompey were vulnerable down the wings, where a wingback would have to do the job of two players. Of course, it may have been the playing personnel that led to Pompey being at the wrong end of the table. Perhaps, Alan Ball picked the right system for the players he had at his disposal.
Sometime after that, I met Ray Wilkins in Trans World International’s studios in Chiswick, where I was working as an assistant producer for their Premier League radio show. I asked Ray about systems, and he explained why he favours 4-4-2. It was for the reasons I’ve already given.
I’m not saying Ray is right, and Stewart Robson is wrong, as I think this system you play depends on the players you have. However, most English players are brought up on 4-4-2 and find this system the easiest to play. And as former England manager Ron Greenwood used to say: ‘Simplicity is genius’. Therefore, I think the new England boss Roy Hodgson is correct to keep things simple. And he’ll be even more correct if he starts Theo Walcott in England’s first game at Euro 2012!