Theo Walcott admits his limited game time this season is cause for frustration but he’s still confident he can force his way back into Arsenal’s starting lineup and make England’s World Cup squad.
This time last year the attacker was in fine fettle scoring five goals and assisting twice in the Gunners’ opening eight games of the season. A calf strain at the turn of the year, coupled with a switch to a 3-5-2 formation, saw him fall from favour and this term he’s mostly been reduced to short cameos off the bench or starts in the Carabao Cup and Europa League.
Speaking after a full 90 minutes in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade, Walcott outlined his ambitions for the rest of the season.
“I can’t lie, it has obviously been very difficult the way the season has started,” he said.
“I had such a big influence last year and the amount of goals I scored but now it has been a bit of a stuttering start to the season.
“The manager knows that I’ve always been there for him. I have managed to bounce back from worse things but it is just one of those things in football you have got to deal with.
“I am dealing with it in the right way and that’s to be completely focused. That’s all I can be.”
Walcott hasn’t played for England since a 2-2 draw with Spain in November last year; a situation that is cause for concern given his hopes of playing for Gareth Southgate at next summer’s World Cup.
Despite being called up to the 2006 World Cup as a 16-year-old, the 28-year-old’s only international tournament game time has come in the 2012 European Championships. Theo’s still hopeful of making an impact at the top end of the game.
“Of course. That is why I need to be playing football, simple as that,” he continued.
“But I need to deserve to be playing. So in this competition [Europa League], cup games, Premier League when given the chance, I need to take it.
“That is the only chance I have to get back into the England squad. It is down to hard work. If I work harder than anyone else… I know my qualities, how good I am.”