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

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on