At the age of 28, Theo Walcott should be coming into his prime. He should be a leader and a first-team star at Arsenal. He should be preparing to fire England into the latter stages of the 2018 World Cup.
What ‘should’ happen and what actually will, however, could not be further apart. Walcott has never been further away from a regular first-team place at Arsenal and has so far failed to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s England squad after being omitted from Euro 2016.
Therefore, reports in The Sun that Arsenal are willing to sell Walcott as early as January to the highest bidder rather sum up his seemingly irreparable decline. The longest serving player in The Gunners’ squad is no longer part of Arsene Wenger’s first-team plans and, with a World Cup on the horizon, Walcott is understood to be considering his future.
He's made just three substitute appearances in the Premier League this season, totalling 47 minutes.
The three clubs reportedly interested in Walcott’s services, Everton, West Ham and Southampton, may be seen as a step down on paper. But perhaps they hold the key to his unfulfilled talent re-launching a career that once promised so much.
West Ham, in particular, seems like an intriguing move. Slaven Bilic’s side have failed to live up to expectations in the last year after failing to replace the talismanic influence of Dimitri Payet. Though Walcott, while not quite blessed with the same natural ability, could bring that big-name status that West Ham are lacking and thrive as the leader of a talented squad.
With Javier Hernandez (above), Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic and co in tow, West Ham have a seriously impressive attack and Walcott could take them to another level.
Therefore, joining a club seemingly set up for success, provided they get the right man to lead them forward, looks a better move than an admittedly emotional return to Southampton, the club he left at 16 to chase his dream at Arsenal.
You get the feeling, therefore, that the next few months are crucial in Walcott’s career.