While Everton record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson is finally starting to come into his own and has been involved in a lot of what Everton are generating in attack, it’s Theo Walcott who is really in sparkling form at the moment.
The 47-time England international hasn’t featured for the Three Lions since November 2016, and has seen his role diminished as Gareth Southgate established himself as the manager.
Walcott was unhappy with the diminished playing time he received this season at Arsenal, and chose to leave for the Blues during the January transfer window. Since his arrival at the Toffees though, he has been a spark plug on the right wing.
The soon-to-be 29 forward has started in all four games for the Blues since his transfer, and apart from the Gunners away game where the whole team was a hot mess and he was subbed off, he’s played full ninety minutes in all the other games.
In those four games, he has two goals and one assist on nine shots. Walcott’s average shots per 90 min is at 2.4, and from players still at Everton this season, only surpassed by Oumar Niasse with 2.8 shots per 90 min.
His pace and vision have been welcome on an otherwise slow Everton squad, and with Seamus Coleman working his way back to fitness, there’s anticipation of a ‘Bainaar’ (Leighton Baines & Steven Pienaar) type combination on the right this time.
The competition is interesting to say the least. England have a shortage of real wingers, and a surfeit of wingbacks. As a result, Southgate has looked often at playing a three-man backline with two wingbacks, in a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-2-1. He’s also tinkered with a four-man defence in 2017, playing Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard and even Adam Lallana as wingers.
Sterling is one of the hottest English players at the moment, and is likely a lock for the squad to Russia. His ability to play anywhere on the forward line only solidifies that.
Rashford meanwhile is a striker by trade, hasn’t necessarily done well as a forward unless in the 4-3-3, and additionally is just in brutal form right now. Lingard is a dynamic presence and should be in the squad as a possible winger as well.
Theo’s former Gunner teammate Ox moved to Liverpool for basically the same reasons Walcott did. At the Reds, he’s been playing further back in the middle in 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations. Lallana, who is more of a central attacking midfielder than anything else, only went out wide out of necessity.
The next international break comes up in just over a month as England take on the Netherlands (led by Ronald Koeman!) and Italy. If Walcott can maintain his hot start in games against a soft upcoming schedule of Watford FC, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion and Stoke City, he certainly could give Southgate something to think about for his World Cup squad.