England vs Lithuania: Theo Walcott 'at risk of being left behind' in Three Lions pecking order

Injuries have seen the Arsenal man lose his place for both club and country

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The Independent Online

Roy Hodgson has told Theo Walcott that he risks being overtaken by other players in the “dog eat dog” world of modern international football, with the winger struggling with injuries and in a new contract stand-off with Arsenal.

It has been a difficult last year for Walcott, who is in the England squad despite starting just five games for Arsenal since he returned from a 10-month knee-ligament absence. Walcott missed another two months with a groin injury and is even now not a regular starter for Arsène Wenger’s side.

He has just over one year left on his current Arsenal deal and on Thursday morning Walcott tweeted to deny reports that he had fallen out with Wenger, and confirm that Arsenal had yet to approach him about a new contract.

“I don’t normally comment on false stories about myself but reports about contract demands and bust-ups with the boss are complete nonsense,” Walcott tweeted. “There have been no contract talks as yet and my current focus is not on contracts  but on doing my best for Arsenal FC.”

The club are unlikely to let Walcott go into the final year of his contract at the Emirates – he only signed a three-and-a-half year deal in January 2013 – meaning that he is likely either to get a new deal this summer or be sold.

This makes 2015 a crucial year for Walcott, and Hodgson admitted that he will have to stay fit and play well to secure his future and start again for England.

“It is an important few months for him,” Hodgson said. “We have enjoyed having him back, and he enjoys this aspect of his career. But he’s got to satisfy a few of his critics and, if you like, make certain he stays fit and gets his place back as one of the first names on the Arsenal team-sheet. When he does that, he might be pushing for a first name on the England team-sheet.”

Fellow forwards Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling are both enjoying better seasons at club level and Hodgson agreed that Walcott is at “risk” of being left  behind by younger players.

“There is always that risk,” Hodgson said. “That’s the thing about football, isn’t it? If you’re not careful, there’s always someone behind you waiting to take your place.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, a bit. Every time, sometimes through no fault of your own, you can be injured.  But then suddenly your position, which had looked very secure, suddenly six months down the line is  not so secure.

“That is the life. That’s something all footballers learn to live with. If you want to  be an England player, you’d like to hope that’s an even bigger thing you’d learn to  live with.”

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