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Theo Walcott shows appetite and greater appreciation of the game
David Pleat - 4 years ago

This was a predictable result against anaemic opposition in an encouraging showing by England, especially in a much improved second half. No one let the team down and Theo Walcott showed glimpses of a greater appreciation of the game.

Buoyed by Jermain Defoe's early goal, courtesy of Wayne Rooney's clever touch and Ashley Cole marauding forward from left-back, we dominated play. Walcott on the right was given licence to challenge his immediate opponent, Zhivko Milanov. As Glen Johnson sat with little attempt to force two-against-one situations, this invited the Arsenal man to show whether he has progressed. His positional ability and selection of pass were under the microscope; no one doubts his speed.

The Arsenal man indicated he's regained his appetite – he sought the ball, and is realising that he must bring variety to his game and not be known solely as a touchline "hugger".

Good wingers mix up their games to keep opponents guessing. Walcott has improved his knowledge of when to spin into space behind the full-back if tightly marked and when to race away, then check towards the ball to receive to feet. Here he moved smoothly off his touchline and played the ball infield and followed his pass. In doing so, he dragged his marker, Milanov, away from the touchline and Glen Johnson accepted the next pass into space. He is learning to make space unselfishly for colleagues.

In the early moments of the second half Walcott did not receive enough supply of the ball and switched with James Milner for the first time. Milanov followed him to the right-back area and then Walcott and Milner switched again – clever wingers.

When Walcott was replaced by Adam Johnson after 74 minutes, I felt comfortable that the young man accused of lacking a football brain is gradually picking up the nuances of wing play. He has played 13 times for his country now and at 21 he is slowly polishing his game.

Other credits were the newcomers: Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka and Joe Hart. Cole was as good as ever.

There was nothing new in our line-up, with Milner and Walcott wide and Rooney drooping a little deeper than Defoe to help Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry. In truth, they had to cope with a tidy but not powerful midfield.

This week Fabio Capello tried to distract his detractors by suggesting we might be playing 9-1, as opposed to 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. The most important factor, though, is that individual players must work collectively, respecting certain principles – compactness, depth, width and penetration.

This is comment. GNM does not necessarily support the views expressed.

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