It is official: England have been eliminated at yet another major tournament. Roy Hodgson’s men were incredibly disappointing against Iceland on Monday night and The Three Lions paid the ultimate price as they crashed out of the competition.
Unfortunately for Hodgson, he has now had to resign after his position became untenable, but it could have been very different – especially if the former Liverpool manager had opted to take Theo Walcott ahead of Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck had managed to avoid his serious knee injury at the end of last season. The Arsenal contingent would certainly have helped rather than hindered England’s chances of success.
Okay so Walcott didn’t have the greatest of years but he was rather harshly overlooked by Hodgson in the build-up to this summer’s competition. Walcott was – and is likely to be – an integral part of Arsenal’s attack and he could play a key role for the Gunners as they hunt a first Premier League title since 2004.
At the time of writing, 32Red UK are offering 5/1 on Arsenal to win the division and Walcott mat still, despite the rumours, have a positive impact. After all, his sheer speed out wide will give Arsenal an added dimension in attack and one that England could have done with throughout the Euros this summer.
Furthermore, Walcott would have actually offered pace and width on the flanks; something that Lallana simply couldn’t provide. Hodgson shot himself in the foot with his player selection on too many occasions and his entire 23-man squad for the competition had holes in it.
Jack Wilshere had played just a handful of Premier League matches all season but was included ahead of ever-present title winner Danny Drinkwater, whilst the injury-prone Ryan Bertrand was also selected but played just one game. Ultimately, it seemed like Hodgson had picked too many people to ‘make up numbers’ rather than basing his choices purely on form – although we all know that Wilshere is clearly England’s best midfielder when fit…
And in a way, this should have benefitted Walcott. The problem was Hodgson’s naive nature and inability to adapt to tactical changes was always going to cost England. Although Sterling can be a decent player on his day, he has struggled to hold down a regular spot in the Manchester City starting line-up whilst competing against a player of Jesus Navas’ calibre.
An extra option out wide, whether that was Walcott or even Newcastle winger Andros Townsend, would have given Hodgson that extra choice and option in wider areas. Perhaps as a result of such choices, the manager failed – just as he did in Brazil. Except this time he paid the ultimate price of being forced to give up his job.
Welbeck would almost certainly have been included in Hodgson’s squad if he hadn’t suffered that season-ending knee injury in the draw away at Manchester City. On his day, the England international is a fantastic talent and his versatility and ability to play almost anywhere across the front is one of his greatest traits.
Ultimately, he could also have given Hodgson a selection headache in wide areas, especially if the likes of Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney weren’t up to scratch. Kane was dreadful throughout the tournament and Welbeck would have been the perfect complement to Rooney up front. However, it is probably slightly unfair and foolish to think that way, as injuries just cannot be avoided.
Next season, both Walcott and Welbeck could return champing at the bit for Arsenal ahead of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign. The Gunners should benefit from their added hunger and desire to do well, although Welbeck may not return until after Christmas – such was the extent of his injury. Walcott, on the other hand, could impress the next England boss and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the 26-year-old force his way back onto the international stage.
He is certainly good enough when he gets a run of games in the starting line-up, unless Olivier Giroud continues his fine recent form throughout the summer. At the time of writing, the Frenchman is 8/1 with 188Bet and 32Red to finish as the top goalscorer at the Euros this summer and Walcott may be hoping that his Arsenal teammate slows down prior to the beginning of the domestic campaign.
Whether Walcott and Welbeck both have a future for England or not, one thing is for sure: both men may have a role in leading Arsenal to Premier League glory next season and we must now turn our attention to our own domestic game following England’s failings in France.