Theo puts forward his case

Good form as Arsenal striker, plus Rooney injury, may land him role as England forward

LONDON • It has taken a perfect storm to blow Theo Walcott on to centre stage.

An England injury crisis has coincided with an impressive run of form at Arsenal, helped by some training-ground pep talks with Thierry Henry, to offer Walcott the prospect of that long-anticipated run-out as centre-forward at Wembley today.

England manager Roy Hodgson was already contemplating shifting Walcott from his wide position after watching him put in a superb display for Arsenal in a 3-0 win against Manchester United on Sunday.

But with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck missing through injury and Wayne Rooney sitting out training on Wednesday with an ankle problem, Hodgson is even more likely to make the same switch as Arsene Wenger did, at some point over the next two games.

With England's place at Euro 2016 already secured, Walcott could have the penultimate qualifier at home to Estonia today and the away game at Lithuania on Monday to take his chance as a striker.

  • WALCOTT PULLS TRIGGER

  • As Theo Walcott bids to take centre stage for England, here is a look at his output in different positions for Arsenal since August 2013.
     

    As a striker
    Starts 7
    Goals 6
    Total shots 28
    Conversion rate 21%
    Assists 2

  • As a winger

    Starts 11
    Goals 6
    Total shots 31
    Conversion rate 19%
    Assists 2

"I have had to wait my time," said Walcott, nine years into a stop-start international career.

"It has been well documented I have wanted to play up front and Arsenal have given me the opportunity, which is great.

"It is taking that form into England and trying to stay there, that is the next goal in my career."

He has been helped by Wenger's advice to get "nasty" and by some more nuanced tactical instruction from Henry, now back at Arsenal as a youth team coach.

"People wouldn't imagine that Theo Walcott is going to track back and tackle (United midfielder Bastian) Schweinsteiger," Walcott said of the game in which he finished with two assists.

"Going back to the question about when it clicked up front, that was one of the things that Arsene wanted me to do - to be more aggressive on the pitch."

What type of things has the Gunners' all-time record goalscorer Henry advised?

"I will keep that to myself because, otherwise, all the defenders would work it out," said Walcott, adding that the Frenchman has given him an analysis of his game and has also been available to answer his questions.

One thing is for sure: The 26-year-old still faces plenty of competition from squad mates.

Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy - the Premier League's leading goalscorer with seven goals so far this season - and in-form Danny Ings, who was also unable to train on Wednesday because of injury, are also contending for a place in the front line.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'THEO PUTS FORWARD HIS CASE'. Print Edition | Subscribe