Arsenal star Theo Walcott's struggles for England against Italy last night have been slammed by La Gazzetta dello Sport, who believe the forward was by far and away the worst player on the pitch.
Walcott was given the chance to shine up front alongside man of the moment Harry Kane in Turin, an opportunity he must have relished after becoming a surprisingly peripheral figure for Arsenal over the last three months.
The 26-year-old struggled to make an impact though and was switched to a bizarre attacking midfield role at the tip of a diamond at half-time, before being taken off altogether just 10 minutes into the second period in favour of Ross Barkley.
Gazzetta were very disappointed with Walcott's struggles, describing the Gunners ace as the 'Eternal Peter Pan' because they view him as the bright prodigy of English football that has till not reached his true potential.
Il peggiore, or the worst, is Walcott's moniker in a match report that rates his efforts at just 5/10. There's no doubt that Walcott was well below par on a rare start, but Hodgson's tactical approach did him very few favours.
Hodgson deserves criticism too
Hodgson's decision to effectively use the Italy friendly for experimental purposes effectively threw Walcott under the bus in truth.
Italy had the combative but fairly slow Giorgio Chiellini on the right side of a three-man defence, but instead of giving Walcott the chance to exploit that area with his pace Hodgson added him to a congested midfield mix.
Phil Jones also floundered in a holding midfield role, giving Hodgson plenty to ponder despite a spirited second-half fightback led by substitutes Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend.
Fight on to prove critics wrong
From Walcott's point of view though the latest round of international fixtures represents something of a missed opportunity, a chance missed to remind critics of his quality.
Arsenal's speed demon now has a real fight on his hands to win his place at club level between now and the end of the season, although Danny Welbeck's knee injury and the continued absence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may help matters.
Walcott will be desperate to start against Liverpool this weekend, although Arsene Wenger has been put under almost no pressure to do so by a fairly anonymous display in Turin from a player who has it all to prove over the next two months.
Arsenal fans, how worried are you by the Walcott situation? Would you start him against Liverpool with Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain out? Let us know in the comment box below!
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