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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests