Theo Walcott injury: Six-month lay-off devastates Arsenal and England

The forward was injured in the Gunners' 2-0 FA Cup third round victory over Tottenham

Arsenal and England were last night devastated by the news that Theo Walcott will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup with a ruptured knee ligament.

Walcott was smiling as he was carried off on a stretcher during Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and while initial reports suggested that the forward had only sprained his ligaments, the diagnosis from Arsenal last night was far worse.

“The club regrettably announces that Theo Walcott has sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee,” read a club statement. “Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.”

The news is a shock to England’s World Cup preparations. Walcott, when fit and on form, would be a probable starter on the right wing. The 24-year-old has often been a first choice of Roy Hodgson, having started both of the World Cup qualifiers this season against Moldova and Ukraine before missing the next two with a shoulder injury, from which he had only just returned.

Hodgson took Walcott to Euro 2012, where he scored in the 3-2 defeat of Sweden, coming on in all four of England’s games.

Walcott has been consistently unfortunate regarding World Cups, though, a painful run that is set to continue. Sven Goran Eriksson took him as a 17-year-old to Germany in 2006, before he had even made a senior appearance for Arsenal, but did not use him in the tournament.

England did not qualify for Euro 2008 and at the next World Cup Fabio Capello made a surprising late decision not to take Walcott in his squad. Even though the winger had scored a hat-trick in a qualifier in Croatia in September 2008, he had some difficult times in friendlies against Egypt, Mexico and Japan, and Capello chose Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips instead.

Walcott will now need to wait until Russia 2018 – when he will be 29 – at the earliest to make his first appearance for England in a World Cup. For this summer’s tournament, the right-wing slot is set to be contested between Andros Townsend, who impressed in the crucial last two qualifiers, scoring on his debut against Montenegro, Lennon, who is starting to find form again for Tottenham, and Manchester City’s James Milner. Youngsters Raheem Sterling and Tom Ince may also be able to stake a claim.

Theo Walcott is stretchered off the pitch during the match against Tottenham Hotspur Theo Walcott is stretchered off the pitch during the match against Tottenham Hotspur (Reuters)
The news is also a blow to his club. Walcott fulfils a crucial tactical role at Arsenal as their only player able to stretch the opposition with his pace. He started all of Arsenal’s first seven matches of the season before sustaining an abdominal injury which ruled him out for two months. Walcott returned in late November, and started their last six straight games, five on the right wing and the sixth up front. He scored twice in the 6-3 defeat at Manchester City last month, twice in the 3-1 win at West Ham United on Boxing Day and the second in the 2-0 defeat of Cardiff City on New Year’s Day.

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, will now come under increased pressure to go into the transfer market this month as his striking options diminish further. Olivier Giroud, who has started 26 of Arsenal’s 31 competitive games this season, is clearly tired and missed their last two games with an ankle injury. Nicklas Bendtner injured himself scoring against Cardiff and will be out for most of this month with an ankle sprain. Lukas Podolski missed months with a hamstring tear and is still nowhere near full sharpness.

On the wing, Arsenal should have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returning later this month but he is not quite the same player. Up front, though, they will need to find an alternative to Giroud as soon as possible. They have already been linked with a move for Fulham’s disaffected forward Dimitar Berbatov.

“Everyone at Arsenal wishes Theo a speedy recovery,” the official statement concluded, “and we look forward to seeing him back on a football pitch as soon as  possible.”

Comment: Arsenal forward Theo Walcott has the personality and ability to bounce back from six-month lay-off  

Arsene Wenger 'looked into' signing Robert Lewandowski

Jack Wilshere delighted that Arsenal squad have 'clicked'

Theo Walcott unlikely to face action over '2-0' gesture

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own