Arsene Wenger has backed Theo Walcott to reclaim a place in the England squad and even believes the Arsenal forward has the qualities to captain the Three Lions.
The 28-year-old missed out on Gareth Southgate’s last selection and was also omitted from last summer’s European Championships as Roy Hodgson preferred other options.
Walcott has had a mixed career at international level, going to the 2006 World Cup as an unproven 17-year-old and becoming England’s youngest senior cap before not featuring in the finals.
Arsenal boss Wenger had previously said not being picked by Hodgson had given Walcott the encouragement to kick on and he has already hit 19 goals this season, largely playing out wide for the Gunners and captaining them on occasions.
He was on 17 goals when he was surprisingly dropped by Southgate for last month’s double-header against Germany and Lithuania and is stuck on 47 caps, but Wenger believes the former Southampton youngster can work his way back into contention.
“Walcott has the quality, if you look at his career, he can respond to disappointment with good focus,” the Frenchman said.
“He had a very bad injury and he came back. When you look at his career in 2006 he was in the World Cup and since he has not been – and we are in 2017 now.
“That is basically 11 years later and he has gone through very early high up and he is still there. That means these guys can deal with disappointment.
“He is a guy who cares and wants to do well, he has a huge level of focus. I looked at his numbers the other day, he has played wide since the start of the season and he has played 20 games and scored 10 goals in the Premier League.
“I was surprised (Walcott was dropped). But it is true for England now there is competition. Going forward, you have a young generation with (Jesse) Lingard, (Marcus) Rashford coming up. (Jack) Wilshere was left out, Walcott was left out and they are usually people who are always in there.”
Walcott has often attracted criticism as many perceive he has not fulfilled the potential he showed when he burst on the scene at St Mary’s.
Wenger puts those cynicisms down to “the modern world” and revealed why he has given Walcott the captain’s armband a number of times this season – including for Wednesday’s vital win over West Ham and potentially for Monday’s trip to Crystal Palace.
“He is quite a focused, determined guy. He doesn’t compromise with what he thinks is important. He speaks his mind,” he said.
Having explained that Walcott has the right qualities needed in a leader, Wenger went on to claim there was no reason why he could not one day lead England – with Southgate yet to decide on a permanent skipper for his regime.
Wenger added: “I think if you can captain a club team you can captain the national team, it’s similar…he is a positive guy.”