Arsene Wenger is backing Theo Walcott to regain his place in the England squad and feels he could even go on and captain the national side.
Walcott captained Arsenal against West Ham in the absence of Laurent Koscielny and could be handed the armband again against Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Some commentators have questioned Walcott’s leadership qualities but Wenger has heavily backed the 28-year-old and praised his performances this season.
“He is a guy who cares and wants to do well,” Wenger said via The Guardian. “He has a huge level of focus. I looked at his numbers the other day, he has played wide since the start of the season and he has played 20 games and scored 10 goals in the Premier League.
“For a wide player that’s quite positive. He has improved his defensive commitment a lot compared to what it was before, he was sometimes a bit less focused on the teamwork. On that front he has improved tremendously. He shows on a daily basis a huge commitment.
“I give a little bit of a priority to the guys who know the Arsenal values, who are here for a long time. The loyalty for me plays a part in representing the club and he has been very loyal because always, when we have renegotiated contracts, he has given a big priority to loyalty.”
Walcott was left out of England’s games against Germany and Lithuania last month by Gareth Southgate but Wenger says he can make it to the World Cup next season.
“Walcott has the quality, if you look at his career, he can respond to disappointment with good focus. He had a very bad injury [a torn cruciate ligament in 2014] and he came back,” Wenger explained.
“When you look at his career in 2006 he was in the World Cup and since he has not been. That is basically 11 years later and he has gone through very early high up and he is still there. That means this guy can deal with disappointment. He can go [to the World Cup] next year.
“If you can captain a club team you can captain the national team, it’s similar. But usually that is left more to defenders, to defensive positions, because they are more focused and they see what is in front of them more than strikers. I don’t think that is his target at the moment.”