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Should Walcott play a central role up-front for England?

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Tomorrow evening, Roy Hodgson’s England will face off against Brazil in 2013’s first set of international friendlies.

The Three Lions will be without injured forwards Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge, but Arsenal‘s Theo Walcott feels he can now step up to become the side’s main striking force. In Wednesday’s match, the 23-year-old hopes to play down the middle, rather than out on the flank – just as he has done on several occasions for his club this season.

Manager Roy Hodgson plans to give the young star the chance to prove against Brazil he can do for his country what he has been doing for Arsenal. Walcott has flourished in front of goal during the 2012/13 campaign, bagging 18 goals – five more than his previous best in a full season.

The last six months have undeniably been a pivotal period in Walcott’s career. He has gone from being frozen out of the Arsenal team over his contract stand-off to his current status as the joint-highest English goalscorer in the Premier league. More importantly, he now has a new contract with the Gunners as one of the club’s highest earners.

It will be quite a leap of faith if Hodgson does play him as a central striker against Brazil tomorrow evening. But I think the young Englishman now has the skills required to fulfil the role.

At only 23 years of age, 30 caps is not a bad achievement. A lot of players of that age are only just starting to come into the set-up. This considered, Walcott’s experience gives him a huge advantage.

Having laid it on the line that he wanted to play as a striker, he has delivered on most occasions this season. To replicate his club form at international level, he just needs to be given a chance in the first team – an opportunity to show Roy Hodgson what he can do.

Hodgson has been trying out a new partnership of Wayne Rooney and Walcott in training and we could expect to see this implemented against the Brazilians tomorrow evening. In my opinion, the Arsenal-man could do a good job up top for England, especially if he performs in the same manner as he has for his club side.

Have your say, feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Arsenal

Three Arsenal youngsters who could help England bring football home in 2022

The Gunners’ academy continues to develop some of the very best youngsters.

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Photo: Getty Images

After a successful tournament got the nation dreaming, England fell at the penultimate at the World Cup and may require Arsenal‘s help in 2022.

Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad exceeded pre-tournament expectations and suddenly Greg Dyke’s objectives for the 2022 World Cup seem within grasp – and the Three Lions now have four years to build towards glory in Qatar.

Come November 2022, when FIFA has confirmed the World Cup will commence, Southgate is likely to call upon a number of the players who starred for the Three Lions in Russia but changes to his squad are also inevitable.

“The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022.”

– FA Chairman Greg Dyke reveals his ambitious plan in 2013.

Fortunately, English football is breaming with exciting young talent at the moment and Arsenal may hold the key to success with three of their most highly-rated prospects.

Eddie Nketiah

Bursting onto the scene in November 2017, Eddie Nketiah became an instant hit at the Emirates Stadium after netting twice against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Since then, the 19-year-old forward has gone on to make three Premier League appearances.

Competition for places at Arsenal is fierce, particularly following the captures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the past 12 months, which means he may have to be patient to get his chance – but the situation is entirely different on the international stage.

In four England U21 appearances, Nketiah has scored two goals, per TransferMarkt stats, following on from eight goals in eight games at U18 level and four goals in two games for the U17 side. In just over a year, Nketiah rose to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 ranks from the U17’s and shows no signs of stopping his rise.

(Photo by Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Becoming a regular for Arsenal in Arsene Wenger’s final season at the Emirates Stadium, Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his versatility by catching the eye playing as a full-back. His natural position is in midfield though and this is where he could be of value to England.

It is fair to say that England’s options in the middle of the park sitting in front of the defence are extremely limited, with neither Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier doing enough to cement their spot in the position for the long-term.

Maitland-Niles could become the man England are looking for in the coming years and further first-team experience with Arsenal looks set to follow under Unai Emery, as the 20-year-old penned a new long-term deal with the Gunners last month.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Reiss Nelson

Arsenal fans have been excited about 18-year-old Reiss Nelson for a while now and saw the teenager break into the fringes of the first-team last term, as Whoscored data shows he finished the campaign with 15 appearances across all competitions.

Eight of those opportunities came as a starter, including two in the Premier League, and there is every chance Nelson could earn further action under the guidance of Unai Emery next term – especially as Alex Iwobi has not done enough to warrant continued action.

Should the Nigeria international continue to suffer with poor form, the eight-cap England U19 international could be Arsenal’s breakthrough star of the year – following in the footsteps of players like Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin.

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The potential 2018/19 Arsenal XI that could win the Premier League

Unai Emery is going all-out this summer and could knock Manchester City off their perch.

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Photo: Getty Images

It has been 14 long years since Arsenal last lifted the Premier League title but optimism is rising following an impressive transfer window.

Under the guidance of new manager Unai Emery, the Gunners have made a number of exciting signings in the market and continue to be linked with further additions – with the minimum objective for the new season being to return to the top-four after a two-year absence.

Facing competition with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham, that task will prove to be difficult but the potential line-up that Emery can select next season gives the Gunners a big chance of ending their long wait for league glory.

We’ve listed Arsenal’s exciting line-up here, including new recruits and other signings that could follow before the window shuts in mid-August.

GK: Bernd Leno

Arsenal have struggled for consistency between the sticks in recent years and Arsene Wenger was often accused of being too loyal to his underperforming stoppers, with neither Petr Cech or David Ospina doing enough to warrant his full faith in the latter years of the Frenchman’s tenure.

Emery has wasted no time in rejuvenating his options though, signing Germany international Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee that the Evening Standard states is worth £22 million. The 26-year-old is likely to become first-choice, with Cech moving to back-up and Ospina likely on the way out.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

RB: Hector Bellerin

Arsenal have signed Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer from Juventus to provide competition on the right-side of the defence but Hector Bellerin is expected to remain as first-choice, though he will need to improve on his performances last season.

Still just 23, the former Barcelona youngster propelled himself into Arsenal’s line-up four years ago and has made the spot his ever since. However, his displays and development have dipped in recent campaigns but Lichtsteiner’s experience could be a key factor in pushing Bellerin towards his full potential.

CB: Caglar Soyuncu

Heavily linked with Arsenal since the start of the summer window, Caglar Soyuncu’s agent recently told Turkish Football that his client remains in ‘concrete talks’ over the signing of the Turkey international, who could become Emery’s fourth defensive recruit.

The 22-year-old Freiburg defender has been identified by Arsenal’s head of recruitment Sven Mislintat as an ideal signing and the potential arrival of Soyuncu could push Germany international Shkodran Mustafi, who has been linked to Juventus by Corriere Dello Sport (h/t Tom Coast of Sports Witness), out of the Emirates Stadium.

CB: Sokratis Papastahopoulos

Arsenal’s ex-Dortmund contingent has grown significantly since Mislintat was appointed as the club’s head of recruitment, with Sokratis joining former team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in north London.

The 29-year-old could become the experienced leader at the heart of Arsenal’s defence amidst ongoing speculation regarding Mustafi’s future and Laurent Koscielny’s long-term injury absence, which could bring the best out of Soyuncu if a deal for the youngster is secured.

(Photo by Florian Choblet/Getty Images)

LB: Nacho Monreal

Although the Mirror state Spain international Nacho Monreal is a top-target for Real Sociedad following the sale of Alvaro Odriozola to Real Madrid, there is no indication that the Gunners want to sell a player who was one of their finest performers last season.

The arrival of Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from Schalke provided the now 33-year-old with competition for his spot at left-back but Monreal thrived in Wenger’s final season.

While Arsenal are looking to the future as they push towards a deal for Barcelona youngster Joel Lopez, Monreal still has enough in his tank to be a star performer for Emery’s side.

CM: Lucas Torreira

After weeks of speculation which indicated that Arsenal had secured a deal with Sampdoria for the services of Lucas Torreira, fans were forced to wait until after Uruguay’s involvement at the World Cup for confirmation of a deal.

Supporters finally got that this week, in a deal The Guardian says is worth £26.5m, and his performances in Russia certainly caught the eye, where he showed the sort of combative midfield display that Arsenal have been lacking since the days when Gilberto Silva was in his prime.

CM: Aaron Ramsey

Although the future of Aaron Ramsey is still not resolved, with the Wales international entering the final year of his contract in north London, Unai Emery sees the former Cardiff City man as the ideal figure to build his new-look team around, according to Sky Sports.

Now 27, Ramsey is entering the prime years of his career and has become a firm favourite with the fans after memorable performances in recent campaigns, which include scoring two FA Cup winning goals. Captain for Arsenal in Wenger’s final game against Huddersfield, many believe he should be handed the armband on a permanent basis.

RM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

One of the biggest transfer sagas of the January window saw Arsenal lose Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United and receive Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return, which so far has seen the Gunners get the better end of the deal with their Premier League rivals.

The 29-year-old scored two goals and provided four assists in 11 league appearances for Arsenal, per Whoscored, including in a 2-1 defeat to his former employers. His relationship with former Dortmund team-mate Aubameyang has been growing and it could be a key asset next term.

CAM: Mesut Ozil

After a disastrous World Cup with Germany saw him become the scapegoat for the defending champion’s failures, Ozil will have redemption on his mind for the forthcoming season as he looks to silence his critics and further his solid relationship with the supporters.

Handed the number 10 jersey after Jack Wilshere’s exit, Ozil will be the creative hub for Arsenal next season and the new-look side around him could bring the best out of the former Real Madrid man – with Torreira behind him allowing Ozil to focus on attacking, while the likes of Mkhitaryan and Ramsey can provide options with runs in behind.

(Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

LM: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

A major January recruit for Arsenal, Aubameyang hit the ground running in the Premier League by scoring ten goals and contributing four assists in just 13 league appearances, Whoscored show. Now bracing for his first full season at the Emirates Stadium, the Gabon international is expected to shine.

Regular going toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski during his time in the Bundesliga for the league’s top-scorer honour, Aubameyang is a contender to challenge for the Premier League’s golden boot in 2018-19 up against the likes of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

ST: Alexandre Lacazette

The signing of Aubameyang in January, just months after Alexandre Lacazette’s own record-breaking move from Lyon, could have handed the France international a major blow but the reality is the pair have impressed in the same side.

Lacazette may not always lead the line next season due to the competition with Aubameyang but WhoScored stats show his form in front of goal during his debut Premier League campaign was impressive, netting 14 times and registering four assists in a season where he was also forced to spend months on the sidelines due to injury.

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Two pros; two cons: West Ham hold face-to-face talks with Jack Wilshere

The 2017/18 campaign ended in disappointment for the Englishman.

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Jack Wilshere
Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere is set to be one of the most sought-after free agents on the transfer market this summer and right now it seems uncertain where the ex-Arsenal man will play next season.

The 26-year-old was released by the Gunners at the end of his contract and for the first time during his career he is now looking for a permanent deal at another club.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the central midfielder has held positive discussions with Premier League outfit West Ham United and new boss Manuel Pellegrini has reportedly held talks with the player already.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The Hammers will be looking to hit the ground running under the management of the former Manchester City boss and signing Wilshere would certainly represent an ambitious move.

As with any transfer there will be both pros and cons to West Ham completing a deal for Wilshere and here we analyse a couple of those in a bit more detail…

Pro: Quality player

At 26 years of age, Wilshere still has several years left ahead of him and West Ham United would get one of the very best central midfielders in the Premier League should they manage to conclude a deal.

Wilshere played in 20 top flight games last season and his vast experience of playing in the Premier League is surely a big factor in Pellegrini’s decision to go chasing his signature.

Con: Suspect injury record

It isn’t uncommon knowledge that Wilshere has struggled with several injury problems over the years and that has to be a primary concern for any potential suitor that wants to offer the player a contract.

Although last season was much better for the midfielder the Hammers would still be taking a pretty substantial gamble on a player who is more than capable of breaking down and being out for months.

Pro: A point to prove

Wilshere is Arsenal born and bred and not receiving a new deal at the Emirates Stadium will have hurt him no end.

That would go a long way towards suggesting that whoever is fortunate enough to tie him down to a contract will get a player with a serious desire to prove the Gunners wrong.

Pellegrini demands that his players work hard on the pitch and given West Ham’s recent poor performances on the pitch, his signing would certainly offer the club a player who would genuinely care about the badge he wears on his chest each week.

Con: Exactly what would he offer?

During his entire career at Arsenal, Wilshere made just 30 assists in close to 200 games and there is an argument that asks exactly what the versatile midfielder would offer a West Ham side who are desperately short of quality.

The Hammers can ill-afford anymore passengers in their squad and although Wilshere can operate in a number of midfield roles it remains to be seen whether he is the type of player that they should be pursuing as a priority this summer.

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