Gareth Southgate has confirmed Theo Walcott will start for England as a new era gets underway against Malta, as reported by Sky Sports.
The Arsenal star hasn’t started for the Three Lions since last October, but their interim manager has clearly seen something in him in recent weeks after some superb performances for Arsenal.
The 27-year-old has five goals in eight games already this season, and Malta could provide the perfect opposition to boost his confidence at international level.
So, what’s behind Walcott’s resurgence? It may be too early to talk of a resurgence at all, as he’s had bursts in the past where he looked back to his best, only for it to fizzle out.
Nonetheless, plenty of positive signs are there.
According to Whoscored.com, the forward still has one major weakness, and that’s his passing, which lies at just over 80% completion.
What Arsene Wenger has clearly been working on, however, is getting Walcott into space, and his deadly finishing has been doing the rest.
FC Basel clearly weren’t ready for him in the Champions League, a game in which he scored a brace. More crucially, they weren’t equipped for Arsenal’s attack as a whole, with Walcott working particularly well on the counter-attack.
Admittedly, Arsenal’s opponents have made it easy for them in some cases. Walcott found himself on the scoresheet again in the 3-0 win over Chelsea, but Antonio Conte’s side don’t seem to have their man-marking down at all, which gifted the England international even more space.
Then there are his two assists in the Premier League. While he may not have always excelled at the Emirates, Wenger’s style of play – quick passing, high-tempo – is perfect for him, and when he’s on form, that could be the secret behind his decent run.
This is a player who ultimately still has a lot to prove, but if he can make an impact for club and country for a prolonged period, there’s no reason why he can’t – finally – start to fulfil his promise.