Agbonlahor and Walcott: an England pairing of captivating potential

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The Independent Football

It requires a mind of little fevered activity to imagine the delicious, captivating possibilities of one special pairing being integrated within the England team.

Fabio Capello’s inscrutable features may not reveal a fraction of the public utterances of his predecessor, Steve McLaren, but we can be sure that, away from prying eyes, even this rugged chunk of an Italian has creased into a smile at the possibilities unearthed by such a duo.

The prospect of Theo Walcott and Gabriel Agbonlahor being paired together in an England side is sufficient to wet the lips of all admirers of the beautiful game. Perhaps even that renowned Frenchman Arsene Wenger, whose team Agbonlahor cut to the quick with a lethal finish at The Emirates on Saturday, might secretly admire such a scenario.

Wenger is merely the latest man of the game to be reminded that, as their say on the roads, speed kills. It certainly finished off poor, tottering Arsenal as the Aston Villa striker roared past William Gallas, the Gunners’ isolated captain, like a Porsche past a pony. What is more, Agbonlahor’s finish was equally lethal and confirmation of his manager Martin O’Neill’s firm belief that not only are Villa playing some superb football, but Agbonlahor deserves his England call-up to confront Germany.

Of course, neither the Villa player nor Arsenal’s Walcott are yet anywhere near the real deal, as they like to say Stateside. Neither even begins to resemble the finished product but then, at just 22, Agbonlahor is a mere child of this footballing fantasy. Walcott, who will not be 20 until next March, is even less experienced.

Yet these two represent a formidable duo, a pair from whom England can potentially benefit for perhaps a decade. In the modern game, pace represents a significant weapon, just as it has always done. Wenger, in his quiet moments, may muse at the teasing thought of pairing the duo in his own side, when transfer activity is at its height next July. We can be certain Villa would resist strongly but cheques of around £25 million can be ignored by few teams, especially in these financial times.

Individually at the moment, both these youngsters are reminding us that all top level sport is a young man’s game. Exposed one-on-one with this young flying machine, Gallas looked the senior citizen, unable to cope either in mind or body with such lightning pace. The sense of irony will not be lost on Wenger, a manager who preaches the gospel of speed, control and the rapid strike. He saw in Walcott such immense possibilities that £12 million was invested on youthful promise; with Agbonlahor, we are already starting to see such promise fulfilled in thrilling fashion. Make that £25 million, £28 or £30 million instead.

It is England’s great fortune that they now have a manager with the tactical acumen and experience to develop these exciting young talents. Truly, no more, a wally with a brolly at the helm.